Cavalier Wool Scouring

June 2010

A large wool processing company is reducing it's environmental impact

Hawkes Bay Wool Scour (HBWS) processes the largest volume of wool in New Zealand each year, as part of the three-plant company called Cavalier Woolscourers Ltd, which is the largest wool scouring company in the world. At the Awatoto plant near Napier it has introduced innovative environmental procedures over the waste stream.

Cavalier Woolscourers was re-organised last year when David Ferrier and Cavalier Group (listed company) made a deal with carpet maker Godfrey Hirst and its competitor Wool Services International (WSI) to rationalize wool scouring in New Zealand. There are now only two operators, Cavalier and WSI, with five scouring sites between them, two in Canterbury and three in Hawkes Bay. Cavalier operates at Timaru and Napier, with two scour lines in Timaru and at Awatoto and one line at nearby Clive. The ownership of Cavalier Woolscourers is 50% Cavalier Group, 25% Ferrier family and 25% Accident Compensation Corporation.

HBWS holds approximately 70% market share in the North Island. Awatoto is the largest wool scouring site in New Zealand and processes the largest volume of wool each year. It has two 2.4 metre wide scour lines which have been extensively modified and modernized.

HBWS processes in excess of 150 greasy tonne of wool a day. This equates to the annual wool clip from approximately 32,000 sheep. It would take New Zealands top shearer over 50 days to shear enough wool to get HBWS through one day. It dispatches between five and seven containers of scoured wool leaving the site each day. HBWS works the scours 24 hours a day seven days a week for as many weeks of the year as possible. This year the target for the Awatoto site is 7,500 plant hours. Because scour lines are continually revolving, the distance travelled by both Awatoto lines is approximately 600,000 kilometres a year.

HBWS processes wool on a commission basis, not owning any of the wool itself. WSI is a merchant scourer, which means it purchases wool to ensure throughout.

HBWS has long-standing customers for scouring services, including a number of international mills that specify their wool must be processed through its plants due to the very high quality of scoured product. HBWS is cost competitive with China and furthermore does a better job as scourers as New Zealand scoured wool is renowned for having very low residues left in the fibre. New Zealand is now unique among major wool-growing countries in scouring most of its total clip before export. Australia and other growing countries now send wool to China for scouring and further processing. NZ retains about 75% of its own wool scouring. Slightly higher costs per kilogram of wool are balanced out by savings on not having to ship wool grease to China. Scouring typically removes about 20-25% of the weight of a greasy clip.

HBWS has been very innovative in reducing effluent loading by removing soil, vegetable matter and wool grease from the waste stream thus making the loading on the effluent stream very low. The Cavalier Bremworth and Godfrey Hirst carpets made from wool scoured at Awatoto and its sister plants are certified by Environmental Choice NZ, which includes biodegradable detergents in the scouring lines. That audit also covers discharges and residues from the scouring plants. The first three bowls of each scouring line are the hot water bowls, where grease and other vegetable matter is removed, and the liquids are continually filtered and cleaned.

Awatoto has mechanical separation of dirt from the greasy wool before scouring, which boosts the effectiveness and throughput of scouring.

Nigel Hales said that years ago waste streams from scours were seen as a cost of processing, but now they are an opportunity to save and market innovative products.

Grease and energy are the two main products. Grease is exported and then refined into lanolin, used in cosmetics. The dry waster is all incinerated for energy production, or composted locally. Wool packs are all recycled these days. All bales which are not blended are traced from the farm or origin.