Tracking community outbreaks of COVID-19 through wastewater can happen faster, using more cost-effective tests, according to new research published by Australian national science agency CSIRO.
A project to produce low-emission hydrogen and graphite from sewage at a wastewater treatment plant in Western Australia has been given the green-light.
According to Water Minister Dave Kelly, Western-Australian based technology company Hazer Group plan to use biogas for its hydrogen and graphite production process.
“Excess gas produced during the wastewater treatment process is currently burned off but this innovative technology will instead use it to create low-emission hydrogen and graphite,” he said.
“This will help decarbonise the Water Corporation’s operations to further support its sustainability objectives, while generating additional revenue and staff training opportunities.”
The three-year operation at Woodman Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Munster will produce around 100 tonnes of fuel-grade hydrogen and 380 tonnes of graphite each year, Kelly said, with potential for expansion.
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the technology will capitalise on biogas waste product – primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide – which is released during the wastewater treatment process as solid matter (biosolids) breaks down.
“While most of this renewable fuel is currently used to produce electricity for the treatment plant, the excess is usually burned off – now it will be converted into valuable materials using an iron ore catalyst,” she said.
Hydrogen has a wide range of industrial and commercial uses, including vehicle fuel and chemical feedstock. Additionally, graphite has potential for a number of industrial applications, such as the production of lithium-ion batteries, water purification and advanced materials.
“Hydrogen is an increasingly important renewable fuel source, and this world-leading project will showcase our state’s capability in the hydrogen industry through the commercialisation of a technology developed right here in WA,” MacTiernan said.
“This initiative represents an important first step towards kick-starting renewable hydrogen production capacity and driving the use of zero-emissions transport fuel for buses, heavy trucking, waste collection and light vehicle fleets.”
The technology was developed at the University of Western Australia before being acquired by Hazer Group.
In partnership with the City of Mandurah, Hazer Group is also exploring plans to establish Western Australia’s first refuelling infrastructure hub, with a grant from the Western Australia Renewable Hydrogen Fund.
Tenders are now open to construct stage two of Tasmania’s Darlington Precinct wastewater transfer system at Maria Island.
According to Environment Minister Roger Jaensch, the project aims to cater for the increasing popularity of Maria Island.
“Upgrades to critical infrastructure at Maria Island to protect the environment and support visitor numbers is continuing in preparation for the re-opening of Tasmanian parks and reserves after the coronavirus emergency,” he said.
“It is also important that planning, maintenance and upgrades continue during the closure of parks and reserves to help support jobs and regional economies.”
Mr Jaensch said works, which include connecting the Jetty and Penitentiary amenities block to the existing wastewater treatment facility through a new transfer system, are expected to begin before the end of the financial year.
“By getting on with tendering for this work now, we will continue to meet the commitments outlined in the Maria Island Re-Discovered Project, which aims to drive sustainable tourism and preserve this amazing natural and cultural asset for generations to come,” he said.
Works will be delivered through the Tourism Infrastructure in Parks and Improving Statewide Visitor Infrastructure Funds.
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Researchers have shown how a by-product of steel manufacturing can be used to treat wastewater and make stronger concrete, in a zero-waste approach to help advance the circular economy.
Produced during the separation of molten steel from impurities, steel slag is often used as a substitute aggregate material for making concrete.
According to an RMIT University statement, steel slag can also be used to absorb contaminants such as phosphate, magnesium, iron, calcium, silica and aluminium in the wastewater treatment process, but loses its effectiveness over time.
“Engineering researchers at RMIT University examined whether slag that had been used to treat wastewater could then be recycled as an aggregate material for concrete,” the statement reads.
“The concrete made with post-treatment steel slag was about 17 per cent stronger than concrete made with conventional aggregates, and eight per cent stronger than raw steel slag.”
Water engineer Biplob Pramanik said the study was the first to investigate potential applications for “sewage-enhanced” slag in construction material.
“The global steel making industry produces over 130 million tonnes of steel slag every year. A lot of this by-product already goes into concrete, but we’re missing the opportunity to wring out the full benefits of this material,” he said.
In the study, civil and water engineering researchers found the chemical properties of the slag are enhanced through the wastewater treatment, allowing it to perform better when used in concrete.
“The things that we want to remove from water are actually beneficial when it comes to concrete, so it’s a perfect match,” Dr Pramanik said.
“While there are technical challenges to overcome, we hope this research moves us one step closer to the ultimate goal of an integrated, no-waste approach to all our raw materials and by-products.”
Civil engineer Rajeev Roychand said the initial study was promising, however further research was needed to implement the approach at a larger-scale, including investigating the long-term mechanical and durability properties of enhanced slag.
“Steel slag is currently not in widespread use in the wastewater treatment industry – just one plant based in New Zealand uses this by-product in its treatment approach,” he said.
“But there is great potential here for three industries to work together – steel making, wastewater treatment and construction – and reap the maximum benefits of this by-product.”
Wastewater treatment plants carry out a vital function for urban and regional areas of Australia, removing contaminants from water and sewage before it is reused of discharged into the environment.
Effective treatment relies on robust, sturdy equipment and machinery that can operate reliably in biochemically extreme conditions over long periods of time.
However, parts and components will at times need replacement to maintain the smooth operations that guide wastewater through the primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment processes. As sudden failure of components or machinery can lead to significant environment risk, it is necessary for regular monitoring and servicing of wastewater treatment equipment.
This is where Inenco Group’s engineering services team comes in. Wayne D’Souza, National Accounts Manager at Inenco Group, explained that while many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for most part only supply products to wastewater treatment, Inenco and its companies BSC and CBC have the expertise to both provide high-quality products and experienced engineering support.
“The wastewater sector, due to the potential for environmental harm, is very averse to risk. And we understand that and that is something we cater for. Wastewater treatment plants not only require reliable components, but they also require high-quality engineering support. What they aren’t getting from the OEMs is the latter. We offer both.”
D’Souza explained that the rapidly-evolving nature of technology has meant that products, and the installation and maintenance processes required for products, have changed, sometimes dramatically.
“Components and products often last a lot longer now. We’ve identified a number of what we call ‘problem-solver’ products, which we put in front of the customer and explain what applications they can be used for and what the benefits are. Further, we can demonstrate that we have the engineering support to not only install the products, provide monitoring and maintenance, but also provide specialist training for the operator’s maintenance team,” said D’Souza.
“We can also invite in our suppliers to provide training and knowledge on their particular products. We have a longstanding relationship with suppliers such as Schaeffler and Gates, for instance, where they come out onto a wastewater site and supervise installations.”
Close relationships with suppliers and in-house product expertise at Inenco’s BSC and CBC branches also enable product recommendations that are suited to particular wastewater operations.
“In the wastewater treatment space, one treatment plant may have totally different processes to another, so some of our problem-solver products might be relevant to one site but not to another. We hone-in on what the customer needs,” D’Souza explained.
For the Inenco’s wastewater teams, determining what works for a particular treatment plant often starts with carrying out site surveys, mapping out the equipment and machinery that the customer is using, and identifying applications which have the potential to cause problems.
“We can determine whether there are better products that can replace existing ones. And we can suggest what products they should use for those applications,” said D’Souza. “That’s what distinguishes us. What sets us apart from our competition is that we offer an extensive range of quality products, which is supported by our engineering expertise.”
BSC and CBC have extensive branch coverage across Australia. BSC, in particular, has a strong presence in regional areas. This means that wastewater treatment plants run by local governments in these areas can have reliable access to the company’s engineering services.
“We were called in by a major wastewater utility company to look at some thermography work, which led into product supply – a large order. The customer felt confident that we could not only provide quality service, but also provide the right products to improve operations. We don’t just supply product for the sake of it. If we have something more suitable, we will make those recommendations. That comes with having in-house expertise,” said D’Souza.
Inenco’s engineers will periodically carry out scheduled condition monitoring services for critical pieces of equipment, which D’Souza said served as a critical safety check for customers.
“This is usually on customers’ critical pieces of equipment. It is ongoing and it is relatively inexpensive to do, especially if you consider the cost of a catastrophic failure that occurs because condition monitoring hasn’t been carried out,” he explained.
Wastewater treatment is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year operation. With potentially huge environmental impacts if something goes wrong, it is critical that engineering support is reliable and easily accessible when it is needed.
“We run a 24/7 operation to back up what we supply,” said D’Souza.
“Our customers need to be able to know they can ring us up at 3am in the morning and get us to come out and look at a broken motor or gearbox. We always have someone on call. When you’re working in such a critical space, its essential that we can give the customer that confidence.”
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Waste Expo Australia, one of the most comprehensive free-to-attend conferences for the waste management, resource recovery and wastewater sectors, returns to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre 23-24 October.
Waste Expo Australia Event Director Cory McCarrick said the event, featuring over 100 speakers, will provide the perfect think tank for navigating upcoming opportunities.
“On Wednesday in Melbourne, Waste Expo Australia 2019 will open its doors at one of the most significant times in history, attracting the largest gathering of waste management and resource professionals in Australia,” Mr McCarrick said.
According to Mr McCarrick, Australia’s recent pledge to change and improve its recycling habits provides significant new opportunities for businesses in the waste and recycling industry.
“The government’s focus on improving recycling habits, particularly with plastic use, shows there will be significant environmental implications as to how businesses will need to be run into the future,” Mr McCarrick said.
The event will be opened by Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, leading a long list of industry professionals looking to discuss, question and examine Australia’s waste management processes, while also seeing the latest product innovations from over 120 brands in the supplier showcase.
Key exhibitors include Bost Group, Cleanaway, Caterpillar, HSR Southern Cross, Tricon Equipment, Applied Machinery and Hitachi.
Mr McCarrick said Waste Expo has grown significantly since 2018, and it is now a must-attend event for anyone in the waste and recycling industry.
“It is clear the push across all levels of government has put waste and recycling to the front of minds, and Waste Expo Australia will challenge current thinking and push boundaries of innovation to enable all businesses to examine their own operations, speak to suppliers and take on high-level information, all for free,” Mr McCarrick said.
Heading up the Wastewater Summit stage on day one, Water Corporation Senior Technical Advisor Membrane Treatment Stacey Hamilton will outline the steps taken by Perth’s Water Corporation to establish Australia’s first groundwater replenishment scheme.
“As Australia’s first scheme, developing the regulatory framework, understanding the technical challenges and keeping the community engaged are all part of keeping the scheme compliant,” Dr Hamilton said.
“The key message from the presentation will be the journey taken by the corporation to get where we are. Getting other utilities educated on the process and journey is important.”
Also on day one, Aerofloat Manager of Operations Michael Anderson will detail compact trade waste solutions and explain how washing with treated reclaimed water helps achieve high quality recycled products.
“Australia’s low water resources and environmental regulations means that any plastic recycling business must have an effective and reliable wash-water recycling system in place,” Mr Anderson said.
At the Wastwater Summit, Mr Anderson will provide delegates with a good understanding of the opportunities for plastic recycling, and highlight where businesses fit within Australia’s current political and environmental requirements.
“Attendees will see solutions that enable wash-water recycling to be used year-round, not just as a short-term fix within their plant,” Mr Anderson said.
Waste Expo Australia is co-location with All-Energy Australia, Energy Efficiency Expo and ISSA Cleaning and Hygiene Expo, forming the nation’s most significant showcase for the waste, recycling, wastewater, renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaning industries.
NHP Electrical Engineering Smart Motor Control systems provide real-time operational disruption data and energy efficient pumping to wastewater facilities.
Australia’s dry and inconsistent climate poses a challenge to water security. As a consequence, increasing the capacity of wastewater recycling facilities is vital to mitigating resource scarcity and increasing climate resistance.
Recycling wastewater can ease pressure on water resources and avoid the need to discharge the material into the environment.
Managing masses of liquid can be challenging, however, given the rheological makeup of the material.
For wastewater facilities to operate effectively, they require centralised pumping systems supported by reliable motor control.
Power distribution, automation and motor control specialists NHP Electrical Engineering Products (NHP) have been operating in the wastewater space for decades.
Michael Liberatore, NHP Automation, Safety and Motor Control Business Manager, says within the digitised modern world, it’s important that NHP can deliver customer-focused Industrial Internet of Things initiatives and tools.
“Water is an essential input that feeds the production cycle of almost all other industries,” Michael says.
“In the contemporary climate, where limited water resources and concerns about the environmental impact of electricity production are real, innovation is central to success.”
According to Michael, Smart Motor Control is one of many innovative solutions supported by the company. He adds that efficient motor control enables application flexibility, as well as higher productivity and workplace safety.
“At the core of this are inventive solutions that provide a reliable supply of water to minimise network upgrade disruptions and optimise capital investment.”
Michael says Smart Motor Control supports secure wastewater networks by enabling real-time monitoring and asset management. Additionally, he says 75 per cent of motor control failures can be prevented by applying appropriate protection measures.
“Efficient motors drive wastewater management performance, and the impact of motor failure can be significant,” he explains.
“With Smart Motor Control devices, clients can improve productivity and help avoid motor failures with an integrated, data-driven approach.”
Michael says the technology diagnoses problems early and identifies where they are, which allows clients to transform data into actionable information to reduce production losses.
Michael says Smart Motor Control systems minimise energy expenditure by reducing overall system power requirements and wear and tear on equipment.
“Smart Motor Control can be easily integrated into clients’ existing motor control systems to offer higher productivity and shorter downtimes,” he explains.
Be it pumping station treatment plants or pipelines, Michael says NHP can provide complete solutions for the most complex water and wastewater applications.
NHP offers a complete portfolio of Smart Motor Control solutions, from simple fixed and variable speed control to precise torque and position control.
“With Smart Motor Control Devices, energy consumption can be monitored on each motor individually at any point,” he explains.
“Our Smart Motor Control solution helps customers achieve advanced pressure and flow control, including soft start, stop capabilities and energy savings.”
Veolia has signed a $17 million per year contract to operate and maintain council-owned water services company Wellington Water’s four wastewater treatment plants.
Wellington Water’s Chief Executive Colin Crampton said the 10-year contract marked the start of a new and exciting focus for Wellington’s wastewater.
“We need to start thinking of wastewater treatment by-products as a resource, and Veolia is a leading company in this area,” Mr Crampton said.
“Veolia already has a long history of involvement in the region, having operated Wellington City’s Moa Point and Western wastewater treatment plants since 2004.”
Mr Crampton said progressively, all four treatment plants will be brought under one contract.
“This will not only provide better value for the region, but also increase opportunities for improved services in the future,” he says.
Veolia General Manager New Zealand Alexandre Lagny said the contract would allow Veolia to deliver better environmental outcomes for the Wellington region.
“Veolia operates approximately 3000 wastewater treatment plants globally and we look forward to bringing our international expertise to Wellington,” Mr Lagny said.
“Wastewater treatment is actually the area where the greatest technological innovation is taking place when it comes to three waters management.”
A new way of tracking how sewage sludge flows during thermal treatment could help engineers design better wastewater treatment plants and boost the production of biogas.
Researchers at RMIT University have demonstrated how the flow behaviour of sludge can be used as a tool to gauge how quickly organic matter is dissolving at high temperatures, suggesting the potential for online monitoring.
Traditional methods of assessing thermal treatment performance require time-consuming sampling and chemical analysis, rheology calculations however – which measure and detail how liquids flow – can be done in real time online.
The study, published in Water Research, found a correlation between how sludge dissolves and changes in its flow behaviour, indicating it may be possible to monitor thermal treatment performance simply by tracking flow.
Lead investigator Associate Professor Nicky Eshtiaghi said correctly estimating the rheological parameters of sludge is critical to efficient process design.
“Our technique enables engineers and plant operators to conveniently obtain these parameters without having to perform the measurements at high temperatures themselves,” Ms Eshtiaghi said.
“We hope the research encourages more serious consideration of flow behaviour in optimising and designing high pressure and high temperature sludge-handling processes.”
The new technique can measure flow behaviour without destroying samples, often a big challenge for concentrated sludge data collection.
The study also shows that varying the thickness of sludge has little impact on the effectiveness of thermal treatment, meaning plant operators could potentially increase biogas production by increasing the solid content of sludge during initial treatment processes.
“Thicker sludge can be beneficial for both optimising efficiency overall, and for producing more biogas,” Ms Eshtiaghi said.
“With our discovery that the thickness of sludge makes no difference, this research gives plant operators more flexibility in designing processes that can better exploit the renewable energy potential of wastewater sludge treatment.”
EPA Victoria has called for further community consultation on Australian Paper’s proposal to develop a large-scale waste to energy facility.
The company has provided the EPA with a health impact assessment to support its application to develop the facility within the boundaries of its site in Maryvale, Latrobe Valley.
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The proposed plant would generate both steam and electricity which can be directly in the paper mill or exported to the grid. It would replace two gas-fired boilers and would produce around 30 megawatts of electricity and 150 tonnes of steam per hour.
The EPA’s assessment of the applications will consider issues such as best practice technology, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, waste fuel composition, compliance with waste hierarchy, potential risks to human health and the environment from air, noise, disposal of fly ash, wastewater treatment and operational contingencies.
It follows a community public meeting held earlier in July, which found there was significant support for the proposals, with many submitters commenting the technology is already operating safely overseas, there are environmental benefits of less waste going to landfill and economic benefits of local job creation.
EPA Development Assessments Director Tim Faragher said the works approval application was originally open for public comment in June and EPA received 115 submissions.
“EPA also ran a community conference in July to hear concerns from those that made submissions. This further consultation period allows interested community members to make further comments on the new information that Australian Paper has submitted,” Mr Faragher said.
When making a final determination, the EPA will also consider all public submissions and the outcomes of the community conference.