CST Wastewater Solutions is working to install a GWE anaerobic digestion plant at the Oakey Abattoir in Darling Downs, Queensland as an environmental initiative that also delivered energy security.
Oakey Abattoir is one of Australia’s largest beef processing plants. The COHRAL (Covered High Rate Anaerobic Lagoon) technology by Global Water Engineering will extract green energy biogas from the abattoir’s waste water streams to replace millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas currently consumed at the facility.
The anaerobic digestion plant was launched recently by Australian Federal Industry Minister and MP for Groom Hon Ian Macfarlane.
In addition to lowering the abattoir’s dependence on increasingly expensive supplies of natural gas, the GWE anaerobic digestion plant will simultaneously reduce the plant’s carbon footprint and produce waste water far cleaner than typical waste lagoons.
The plant is expected to repay its cost of construction inside five years through gas purchase savings amounting to many millions of dollars, and will continue to deliver benefits and profitability virtually in perpetuity, says Oakey Abattoir Pty Ltd General Manager Mr Pat Gleeson.
COHRAL technology, which is applicable to both livestock and cropping operations, uses concentrated anaerobic bacteria to digest 70 per cent of the organic matter in Oakey Abattoir’s waste water to produce effluent of far high quality than typical open lagoons.
The Oakey Abattoir, which employs 750 people, adheres to Nippon Meat Packers’ strict environmental guidelines and corporate responsibility ethic as a major operator across Australia and an exporter to 34 countries.
It is an initiative that sets an outstanding precedent for agribusiness in Australia because the cost-effective technology can turn an environmental problem into profit by simultaneously enhancing water quality, lowering fuel bills and guarding against future price rises in the cost of energy and imposts such as a carbon tax.
Another major benefit of covered anaerobic lagoons is that the methane biogas produced within them is not only prevented from escaping into the atmosphere (where it is many times more damaging than CO2 emissions) but is also harnessed to generate energy.
Oakey Abattoir’s plant will reuse the biogas in its boilers, where it is initially expected to replace about 50,000 gigajoules of natural gas a year.
CST Wastewater Solutions Managing Director Mr Michael Bambridge explains that GWE anaerobic waste water green energy plants have been demonstrated in many applications worldwide to transform wastewater from a problematic expense to a profitable resource.
While GWE’s anaerobic waste water technology has been proved worldwide at more than 300 installations of totally enclosed tanks, or reactors, this is the first time it has been applied to a covered lagoon, an application where it has enormous further potential in countries with strong agribusiness sectors.
In addition to the obvious waste-to-energy benefits, the process also helps curb odours that emanate from open lagoons in processing plants. This is becoming a much bigger issue in Australia as urban encroachment means agribusiness and expanding communities are located much closer to each other than previously. Closed installations such as Oakey Creek’s represent an outstanding contribution to good community relations.
Anaerobic digestion also produces reliable and predicable base load power; unlike some other green energy technologies, it is not dependent on the wind or the sun.