Major global wool industry player and Hawke's Bay scourer WoolWorks is replacing its gas-fired boiler with a modern efficient hot water heat pump to reducing its Awatoto site's carbon emissions.
Company chief executive officer Nigel Hales says emissions will be cut by a quarter and the pump will be one of the most sophisticated and largest in New Zealand.
It will replace the Waitangi Rd site's natural gas-based hot water generation system, including a hot water boiler and steam heat exchangers, and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from what is the world's biggest wool-scouring operation by 1700 net tonnes per year, 24 per cent of the total energy-related emissions from the site.
WoolWorks, the largest woolscourer by volume in the world and handler of 76 per cent of New Zealand wool, washing 100 million greasy kilograms across sites in Napier, Hastings, and Timaru, and employer of about 150 staff, will invest $2 million in the project.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is contributing $455,000 through the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund (GIDI).
The company is also switching from coal to an electrode boiler at its Washdyke site near Timaru in a separate project also co-funded by a previous GIDI round.
Hales said WoolWorks is determined to demonstrate leadership in helping to address climate change.
"This investment represents another material step in our goal to improve WoolWorks' environmental footprint and reduce our carbon emissions," he said. "WoolWorks is leading the world with our environmentally-friendly scouring process."
Its total energy use per kilo of wool is among the best in the world, but he said: "We remain committed to transitioning away from coal and gas to electricity where it is feasible to do so and meeting the expectations of the global supply chain for products that are good for the planet."
The initiative will not only support the sustainability credentials of WoolWorks but further enhance the credentials of New Zealand wool through the "important early-stage value-add process".
EECA chief executive Andrew Caseley, who was Hawke's Bay Regional Council CEO for 13 years, praised WoolWorks' 'energy efficiency first' approach.
"EECA has worked with WoolWorks since 2016 and supported it in a number of decarbonisation projects through EECA's Energy Transition Accelerator," he said.
"Continuing to improve energy efficiency by implementing new energy efficient technologies is helping WoolWorks work towards its sustainability commitment."
The authority funded an energy audit for the Awatoto site in 2020, identifying many opportunities that could be implemented to reduce energy consumption, followed by installing new low carbon technologies for process heat decarbonisation.
WoolWorks actively manages its energy consumption at its sites, even more intensely over the last 18 months, and has invested in a fulltime process engineer focused on energy modelling, simulation and sustainable options.
Other energy efficiency initiatives already under way at Awatoto include insulation of high-temperature surfaces including steam and condensate piping and modifying flow-down systems to maximise heat recovery.
Every part of the scouring process is monitored with water usage carefully controlled and waste streams recycled and reused where possible.