FAQs

General FAQs

What are alternative fuels and raw materials?

As part of our commitment to sustainability and reducing emissions, the Birkenhead Plant has used Alternative Fuels and Raw Materials (AFRM) for more than 17 years.

Alternative fuels are energy-rich materials which replace natural gas as a source of energy in the cement manufacturing process.

Alternative raw materials rich in calcium, silica, alumina or iron replace traditional mined raw materials such as limestone, clay, and ironstone.

At the Birkenhead Plant we substitute natural gas with Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and Carbon Powder. We substitute mined raw materials with Black Sand, Blast Furnace Slag and Blended Mill Scale.

For more than 17 years, the ARFM program has successfully diverted 2.2 million tonnes of waste from Adelaide landfills, replaced 0.7 million tonnes of non-renewable mined raw materials, reduced oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions by 25%, and conserved over 15 million GJ of natural gas.

Alternative fuels currently replace 30% of the Birkenhead facility’s fossil fuel requirements, and as part of our Sustainability Framework, we have committed to a target of 50% of South Australian kiln fuel to be sourced from alternative fuels by 2025. We want to continue to deliver excellent environmental outcomes for our business and our community, so have recently commenced exploring the use of a new RDF in our process.

For any AFRM used at Birkenhead, we will only consider materials that are demonstrated to be safe for our employees, the community and the environment.

Why do you want to use these alternative fuels and raw materials at Birkenhead?

As part of our Sustainability Framework, we have prioritised four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to actions that most closely align with our business objectives and in areas where we can make the most difference for Australians.

Our AFRM program is designed to address these goals by developing and investing in new products and processes to divert waste materials from landfill, which can help to produce low-carbon building materials and reduce environmental impacts.

Learn more about how our parent company, Adbri Limited, is helping to build a sustainable future for all Australians.

What are the benefits of alternative fuels and raw materials?

Our AFRM program has been operating safely for more than 17 years at Birkenhead.

In that time, the program has made significant progress towards making the cement process more sustainable and has improved environmental outcomes for the community, while delivering the same quality product that ABC is known for.

We have already reduced our natural gas reliance by 30% and replaced 0.7 million tonnes of non-renewable mined raw materials.

By reducing fossil fuels in the cement manufacturing process, our AFRM program will help to provide sustainable materials for Australia’s infrastructure.

The program also delivers excellent environmental and safety outcomes for our local community; the programme has already delivered a 25% reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions, a 710,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions, and diverted 2.2 million tonnes of waste from Adelaide landfills.

What is the circular economy?

As defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “a circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems”.

As the first to introduce RDF in Australia, ABC is among those leading the cement industry’s transition to a more circular economy. The program is already helping to reduce our reliance on raw materials and fossil fuels and give new life to waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill.

Learn more about the circular economy here.

What is the waste management hierarchy?

The waste management hierarchy sets out priorities for managing waste. It can be used as a tool to manage waste in an environmentally sound manner and make the best use of the recoverable materials it contains. It prioritises practices based on resource and energy consumption / recovery, with waste avoidance being the most favourable action and landfilling the least. ABC AFRM program has been designed to support and align with the waste management hierarchy.

Learn more about the waste management hierarchy in South Australia.

What is co-processing?

Co-processing refers to the use of waste in the cement manufacturing process where energy recovery and the recycling of mined materials occur simultaneously.

The mineral part of the waste replaces raw mined materials (such as limestone, clay or ironstone) and the combustible part provides the energy needed to achieve the high temperatures required for clinker production.

Because co-processing involves energy recovery and material recycling at the same time, it falls somewhere between those two steps on the waste management hierarchy.

Although new to Australia, co-processing is a proven technology that is widely used as a waste management tool in Europe, with the European Union considering updating the waste management hierarchy to specifically recognise co-processing as a useful form of material recycling.

Learn more about how co-processing contributes to a circular economy.

What kinds of emissions outcomes will alternative fuels and raw materials produce?

At ABC, taking action to address our carbon emissions is a key part of our sustainability journey to address the shared global challenge of climate change.

Use of alternative fuels at our Birkenhead facility has already delivered excellent results across key emissions measures, with a 25% reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and a reduction of 710,000 tonnes of CO2 since the program’s inception in 2003.

By replacing approximately 30,000 tonnes per annum of non-renewable mined raw materials such as limestone, clay and ironstone with alternative raw materials, and by substituting the ash components of our alternative fuels we can further reduce our emissions across our supply-chain by reducing our reliance on energy-intensive mining processes for raw materials.

Studies in Europe and Asia using life cycle analysis tools to assess the overall emissions outcomes for co-processing found that co-processing of certain wastes delivered far greater emissions outcomes than landfilling that material.

Where do these alternative fuels and raw materials come from?

AFRM’s used at Birkenhead are all sourced from wastes or by-products destined for landfill, which, in line with the waste management hierarchy, has had all recyclable materials removed. RDF is produced by Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), receiving waste from construction and demolition (C&D), commercial and industrial (C&I) and municipal solid waste (MSW) sources. All recyclable components are removed, leaving a residual waste stream that is diverted and segregated at a specialised third-party facility to produce a consistent fuel.

Does the Birkenhead facility continue to burn natural gas?

Yes, RDF currently replaces 30% of the Birkenhead facility’s fossil fuel requirements, and as part of our Sustainability Framework we have committed to a target of 50% of South Australian kiln fuel to be sourced from alternative fuels by 2025.

We want to continue to deliver excellent environmental outcomes for our business and our community, so have recently begun exploring the use of a new RDF in the Kiln at Birkenhead, in addition to the RDF already used in our Calciner process.

Learn more about how energy use at ABC’s Birkenhead plant supports our parent company’s sustainability goals in Adbri Limited’s Sustainability Report.

What other new fuels may be considered for use at ABC?

Use of alternative fuels at our Birkenhead facility has already delivered excellent results across key environmental measures, with a 25% reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and a reduction of 710,000 tonnes of CO2 since the program’s inception in 2003.  

We want to continue the success of the program, so as part of our Sustainability Framework ABC has committed to a target of 50% of South Australian kiln fuel to be sourced from alternative fuels by 2025. For any fuel used at Birkenhead, we will only consider highly engineered products that are based on well-established technologies and that have been proven internationally to be safe for people and the environment.

Each step of our alternative fuels journey involves extensive evaluation which involves monitoring and require approval by the South Australian Environment Protection Authority (SA EPA) before any change in fuel can occur.

ABC strives to be a good neighbour and our alternative fuels program is part of our efforts to  continually improve outcomes for our local community. Community consultation is a crucial part of the AFRM program and we look forward to working together to build a sustainable future for all Australians.

Learn more about community engagement.

How can I find out more about the alternative fuels and raw materials program?

At ABC, our focus is on open and transparent communication and continued investment in our community.

We have been a proud member of the Port Adelaide and Birkenhead communities for more than a century and want to continue to be a valued community member for the next century. Part of that is a commitment to continuously seek to improve our practices and look for ways to deliver positive outcomes for the community.

Please return to this website for the latest information on alternative fuels and raw materials, including our engagement and communications activities. You can also register to be notified of website updates and to be given advance notice of relevant EPA approval activity.

Have questions or comments? Get in touch here.

Refused derived fuels FAQs

What is RDF?

RDF, or Refuse Derived Fuel, is a process engineered fuel from waste. Our Birkenhead facility currently uses RDF produced from construction and demolition (C&D) (primarily timber) and commercial and industrial (C&I) waste, that has been used safely in our operations since 2003.

It is currently used to replace natural gas as a source of energy in the cement manufacturing process, and is also used to replace raw mined materials, such as limestone and clay.

RDF has a different burning mechanism than natural gas, which has resulted in a significant reduction of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions from our Birkenhead facility.

Download RDF fact sheet.

Who sets the specifications for the RDF?

Each step of our alternative fuels journey has involved extensive evaluation, monitoring and approval by the SA EPA.

ABC is regulated by the SA EPA, who grant a licence for activities of environmental significance at the Birkenhead facility including our fuel use.

Current use of alternative fuels at Birkenhead has required SA EPA approval and the process involved public notification and close consultation with the community.

The SA EPA reviews and approves the recovered product plan for the alternative fuel. The recovered product plan includes fuel specification and quality control. Any changes to fuel use or composition will require further approval from the EPA and consultation with the community.

Learn more about our licence conditions from the SA EPA.

How is RDF being used?

As part of our commitment to sustainability and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the Birkenhead Plant uses Alternative Fuels and Raw Materials (AFRM), including RDF.

In a practice known as co-processing, RDF is being used to replace both natural gas and raw materials in our cement production process.

The use of RDF and other AFRMs reduce the volume of material being disposed to landfill while reducing the reliance on non-renewable energy sources.

Is using RDF safe?

Our alternative fuels program has been operating safely for more than 17 years at Birkenhead.

  • The program has already delivered excellent environmental and safety outcomes for our local community; the programme has already delivered a 25% reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and diverted 2.2 million tonnes of waste from Adelaide landfills.

Each step of our alternative fuels journey has involved extensive evaluation, monitoring and approval by the SA EPA.

  • For any fuel used at Birkenhead, we will only consider highly engineered products that are based on well-established technologies and that have been proven internationally to be safe for people and the environment.

Can I see or smell anything different when RDF is being used?

RDF is delivered, unloaded, conveyed and stored within an enclosed system, reducing the possibility of odour dispersion. The fuel is burnt in the kiln and does not produce a visible emission (other than water vapour produced in the process).

RDF contains plastic that may produce emissions when processed at high temperatures. How will this be controlled?

Cement manufacturing is uniquely positioned to get the most value out of non-recyclable waste through co-processing in cement kilns, as the process does not produce the same potentially harmful outputs as other forms of energy recovery from waste.

The controlled, high-temperature environment required for the cement process minimises production of dioxins and furans, and any ash produced is safely captured as part of the clinker and is not sent to landfill.

RDF composition is made consistent through off-site processing, and any change to the content of the RDF is approved through the SA EPA following extensive evaluation of which community consultation is a critical part.

Learn more about our licence conditions from SA EPA.

ABC provides live air quality monitoring information to the community and reports regularly on environmental performance.

See the latest results.

Kiln refused derived fuels FAQs

Why are you expanding RDF use at the Birkenhead facility?

RDF currently replaces 30% of the Birkenhead facility’s fossil fuel requirements, and as part of our Sustainability Framework, we have committed to increasing this to 50% by 2025. ABC continuously seeks to improve the sustainability of our cement manufacturing operations. Using RDF, alongside natural gas in our kiln, reduces our use of fossil fuels and diverts waste away from landfill whilst also offering economic benefits.

Learn more about how our parent company, Adbri Limited, is helping to build a sustainable future for all Australians.

Is RDF already being used elsewhere?

RDF has been used safely in the Calciner at our Birkenhead facility for more than 17 years and has long been a common fuel source in cement manufacturing in many operations worldwide, including other facilities in Australia. It is safe to use and delivers better outcomes for our environment and our community than traditional cement production processes.

Learn more about the benefits of our alternative fuels program.

How is Kiln RDF different from Calciner RDF? What kind of waste will be processed?

Over the last 17 years, the use of RDF in the Calciner at our Birkenhead facility has consistently delivered excellent results across key environmental measures. We want to continue the success of the program and are proposing to use RDF, alongside natural gas, as a fuel source for the kiln at the Birkenhead plant.

Currently, Calciner RDF that is in use at the Birkenhead plant is sourced from mixed construction and demolition (C&D) and commercial & industrial (C&I) waste and consists mainly of wood with some paper and plastic.

Kiln RDF will be sourced from domestic and municipal waste, which in line with the waste hierarchy has had all recoverable material removed before being sent to landfill. The Kiln RDF mainly consists of non-recyclable plastics, packaging materials, paper, textiles, and other material found in domestic and municipal waste.

Why can’t you use municipal waste without it being processed?

We need stable operating conditions for our kiln, so we want a consistent fuel product, produced to certain specifications. For any fuel used at Birkenhead, we will only consider highly engineered products that are based on well-established technologies and that have been proven internationally to be safe for people and the environment.

Our supplier will treat the RDF before we receive it to ensure that it is of consistent composition and will produce the same high-quality cement that ABC is known for. As part of this processing, the RDF has organics removed and is thoroughly dried to ensure that no odour is produced in the Kiln RDF process.

How much RDF will you have on site at any one time?

ABC will not stockpile Kiln RDF on-site as it will be delivered to the plant by our supply partner Integrated Waste Services (IWS) as needed. Our supply partners employ best practice safety management systems and operate in line with all EPA requirements including stockpile management requirements.

How will Kiln RDF affect emissions from the Birkenhead site?

As part of our commitment to sustainability and reducing emissions, the Birkenhead facility has introduced the use of Alternative Fuels and Raw Materials (AFRM), which has already delivered excellent results across key environmental measures, with a 25% reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and a reduction of 710,000 tonnes of CO2 since the program’s inception in 2003.

We want to further reduce our emissions by increasing our alternative fuel use at the Birkenhead facility to 50% by 2025.

RDF is commonly used in cement processing throughout the UK and Europe and experience overseas has demonstrated that there is no materially significant change in stack emissions from the use of RDF.

Even so, we are undertaking desktop modelling, known as a materials balance assessment, to evaluate the use of RDF in the Birkenhead Kiln and understand its effects on stack emissions, which must comply with EPA regulated limits. We will be communicating the results of this assessment with our community before we proceed.

Importantly, the controlled, high-temperature environment required for the cement process minimises the production of dioxins and furans, and any particulates produced are safely captured as part of the clinker and not sent to landfill. This applies to all RDF used at our Birkenhead facility.

Will Kiln RDF impact safety at the Birkenhead site?

No, we have been safely processing RDF as part of our alternative fuels program at the Birkenhead facility since 2003. We are proposing to introduce additional RDF as it is a highly engineered product based on well-established technology and has been proven internationally to be safe for people and the environment. RDF is a common fuel source in cement manufacturing in many operations worldwide.

Will this project require EPA approval?

Each step of our alternative fuels journey has involved extensive engagement with the SA EPA and our local community. We must gain approval from the SA EPA for any changes to our licence, and we will communicate any changes to this process as they occur.

Learn more about our licence conditions from SA EPA.

Will there be any additional impacts on the community or environment as part of the Kiln RDF project?

Overall, as part of the AFRM program the use of RDF delivers a net benefit to our community, our environment, and our business.

RDF has been used safely in the Calciner at our Birkenhead facility for more than 17 years and additional RDF will produce minimal noticeable changes for the community.

Any further changes to our operation will be communicated and approved by the SA EPA, and this will involve close consultation with our community in line with our community engagement plan.

We have engaged independent specialists who are currently undertaking desktop modelling and several additional assessments to understand Kiln RDF.

At this stage, we understand the following impacts:

Traffic volumes

Although, there will be some additional trucks delivering Kiln RDF along the Port River Expressway and Victoria Road, numbers are expected to be below 10 additional trucks per day. Impacts to the community are expected to be minimal as this transport route is designed for high volumes of traffic and heavy vehicles and will keep the trucks from travelling through residential areas.

Dust

All RDF will be transported to site in fully enclosed trucks, and we will put in best-practice technology to manage risk of dust from unloading. We will conduct ongoing visual inspections on the site to assess if any RDF has escaped containment.

Odour

RDF is a highly engineered fuel and is thoroughly dried and had all organics removed during processing to ensure that no odour is produced in the Kiln RDF process. As with Calciner RDF, Kiln RDF will be transported to site in fully enclosed trucks. When discharged, the RDF is transported within a fully enclosed handling system to prevent any odour being released.

Stack emissions

RDF is commonly used in cement processing throughout the UK and Europe and experience overseas has demonstrated that there is no materially significant change in stack emissions from the use of RDF.

Even so, we are undertaking our own desktop modelling, known as a materials balance assessment, to trial the use of RDF in the Birkenhead kiln and understand its effects on stack emissions. Final approval will require actual stack emission testing which must comply with EPA regulated limits. We will be communicating the results of this assessment with our community before we proceed.

Importantly, the controlled, high-temperature environment required for the cement process minimises production of dioxins and furans, and any ash produced is safely captured as part of the clinker and is not sent to landfill. This applies to all RDF used at our Birkenhead facility.

If you have questions or concerns you can contact our 24/7 Hotline or get in touch.

Sign up to receive updates on the Kiln RDF project.

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