Noxious weed thorny acacia to be turned into ‘green coal’ by renewable energy company in outback Queensland

One of Australia’s most noxious weeds will soon be used to make a ‘green’ alternative to coal.

Thorny acacia, native to Africa, has been a multi-million dollar problem in outback Queensland for decades, infesting the best pastures, killing native grasslands and degrading soil health.

But after a decade of research, a company has discovered how to turn the small, thorny shrub into a carbon-neutral energy source for use in cogeneration plants.

Green Day Energy will build a $30 million plant in the north-west Queensland town of Richmond, where thorny acacia has been out of control since the 1990s.

Miracle solution to the weed problem

The renewable energy sector may have found a good use for weeds like thorny acacia. (ABC News: Lydia Burton and Rose Grant)

Thorny acacia will be harvested, processed into woodchips, and then roasted to become a fuel source like thermal coal.

Biochar is another material made from thorny acacia that can be used to create green hydrogen.

thorny acacia
Millions of dollars have been spent trying to eradicate the thorny acacia from pastures.(Provided: Government of Queensland )

It can also be added to soil to improve its health and quality, and can sell for up to $2,000 per ton, while charcoal sells for around $400 per ton.

Green Day Energy founder Brad Carswell said the $30 million project was a game-changer in the fight against invasive weeds.

“I think it was watched [before] but not in the way we envisioned it,” Mr Carswell said.

“We have always said that a cost-effective solution to thorny acacia is needed, [or] it will never be touched.

“We have a very skilled team and we’ve been coming to Richmond for 10 years.”


Job creation

Richmond Shire Council Mayor John Wharton said the area has been trying to harvest thorny wattle for as long as he can remember.

“When I was young we used to poison them, but we’ve come a long way since then,” Mr Wharton said.

John Wharton
Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton said farmers have been looking for a solution to the weed problem for years.(Rural ABC: Caitlyn Gribbin)

“We think it’s great, there will be a lot of jobs in the process and landowners can also do it themselves.”

The plant should be operational in six months.

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