AKD SOFTWOODS is preparing to start a $6.2-million redevelopment of its Colac site with the construction of new continuous drying kilns and boilers.
Colac Otway Shire Council gave a $3-million component of the project the green light at its monthly meeting this week after a fire at AKD forced the company to fast track permit plans.
Contractors will build two continuous drying kilns, a control room, a heat plant and a car park, with the company planning to shut down its coal-burning boiler at Irrewarra.
AKD Softwoods chief Shane Vicary said the project had positive environmental benefits for the company.
“It’s a nice project because the boiler at Irrewarra is inefficient and it’s also burning a fossil fuel,” he said.
“We’ve been getting the coal briquettes from Gippsland and there’s some insecurity around the long-term supply of those briquettes.
“So for us it gives us security of supply for our fuel, it reduces our reliance on a fossil fuel burning process and also enables us to grow.
“The continuous kilns are really innovative, there’s a real push for our business to be world class, and we’re going to be the first company in Australia to install continuous kilns,” Mr Vicary said.
The State Government has contributed a $250,000 grant towards the redevelopment while the council helped fast track the application permit for the kilns after last week’s fire.
Mr Vicary said the council had been helpful with the planning permit process.
“We had a fire last week, I rang the council whilst the fire was still burning and said potentially we could have some kilns down for quite some time,” he said.
“We really needed to make sure this process didn’t get hung up and they moved very fast.
“As it turned out we were able to get our kilns up and operational again after three days due to some excellent effort from the AKD team.”
Mr Vicary said the company was also shifting from thermal oil to hot water for heating the kilns.
“It’s a more expensive capital cost to use hot water but there’s two elements that are really positive,” he said.
“There’s much less likelihood of fire, so it’s a safer process, and it’s also a cleaner process; if you have a leak, you’ve just got hot water leaking onto the ground instead of thermal oil.
“So I’m really excited about the project because it facilitates our growth, it enables us to shut down our coal-burning boilers and we’re using hot water rather than thermal oil.”
AKD is investing $45 million over five years to help transform its business in Colac.