Gladstone pioneering renewable oil from biosolids
GLADSTONE will pioneer a potentially "world-leading" program that turns sewage into renewable crude oil and ultimately renewable diesel.
The Northern Oil Refinery at Yarwun, operated by Southern Oil Refining, will kickstart the program with its demonstration scale plant. Funding for the $11.8million facility received a $4million boost yesterday.
The extra funds come from the Federal Government via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The demonstration project is being built at Yarwun and aims to turn biosolids from wastewater treatment sewage into renewable crude oil.
The biosolids will be sourced from wastewater treatment plants in Gladstone as well as the project's partner Melbourne Water Corporation's Werribee facility.
Southern Oil Refining managing director Tim Rose said the Melbourne biosolids would be transported to the Yarwun facility with the demonstration stage taking up to a year.
If successful, a full-scale plant would be built near MWC's Werribee facility, while the Yarwun site would continue to operate and potentially grow into a much largely facility capable of dealing with biosolids sourced from areas closer to home.
"This is the first cab off the rank to go to a demonstration-scale plant. Once we have that we can go to a full commercial scale operation," Mr Rose said.
He explained the process of converting the biosolids into renewable oil.
"It's the bacteria which has died from treating sewage sludge, it's not awful smelling but it is rather inert solid that builds up over time and you find in places no one knows what to do with it," Mr Rose said.
"It's a worldwide problem and typically these things are being landfilled or stockpiled and that's the problem in Melbourne but also around the country.
"It's not noxious or toxic, it's a waste of a raw material, it's like any other waste out there that builds up - you've got to find something to do with it.
"At the moment the answer is landfill or stockpiling it but we think we can do better."
Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg backed Mr Rose's sentiments.
"This is incredibly world-leading and innovative - you are taking sewage and turning it into transport fuel," he said.
"You're reducing the need to stockpile it or out it in landfill. You're helping to boost Australia's energy security and better environmental outcomes.
"This is a very significant project bringing our best scientists and engineers to meet and beat a challenge and a problem that's facing our country and others around the world."
Job opportunities for Gladstone would also be in the pipeline according to Mr Rose.
"It will mean a planned expansion here. We've already taken on a number of additional people and you'll see more and more as this equipment starts to ramp up," he said.
Mr Rose said potential customers would line up if the end product can fully replicate normal diesel fuel.
"There's millions of tonnes of waste around this country so we certainly are well within our means to be able to produce a fair chunk of our domestic fuel needs," he said.
"The market is absolutely huge, but we come from the point of view that the fuel must be a drop-in; it has to be indistinguishable from normal diesel.
"When people pull up to a bowser they're not going to be able to distinguish this from something that has come from a fossil crude source."
Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd backed the 'new age' project.
"It's very fitting the minister is here because he's the Minister for Environment and this just oozes environmental issues and also energy renewables to fuel," he said.
"Using the skills and some of the world's best research development and scientists, there is no stopping this remarkable new age company from achieving this huge benefit that was once thought to be a distant aspiration."