As part of the second phase of the $1 million Biosolids to Biochar project, South East Water is again partnering with RMIT, Intelligent Water Networks, Greater Western Water and Barwon Water to develop trials of a new pyrolysis technology (PYROCO). 

The project uses next generation pyrolysis technology to transform biosolids generated from wastewater treatment plants into biochar, a safe and nutrient-rich material sought after by the agriculture industry to regenerate soils. It can also be used in construction, and further used to develop advanced carbon materials. Biochar also stores carbon, preventing it from being released into the environment.

The project team welcomed Member for Melton, Steve McGhie, to Greater Western Water’s Melton Recycled Water Plant to view the purpose-built demonstration unit and showcase the technology and its benefits.

Mr McGhie said that the project demonstrates how industry and science can work together to deliver great outcomes for both the environment and the economy. 

“Biochar is an exciting product that has great potential for both our farmers and our construction industries, and I’m excited to see the outcomes of the trial,” Mr McGhie said. 

The current Phase Two trials follow successful Phase One trials in 2021 which demonstrated removal of pathogens, contaminants, and microplastics, and seeks to validate these results at a greater scale using the biosolids from various water authorities as well as biomass and food and organic waste.

South East Water General Manager of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation, Daniel Sullivan, said that the project could potentially address the water industry’s challenge of biosolids disposal while removing carbon from the atmosphere.

“We believe that this exciting technology has the potential to transform by-products of the wastewater process into a valuable resource, in a way that is the most carbon-efficient while maximising the quality of the biochar,” Mr Sullivan said.  

“In this Phase Two trial, we’re seeking to validate assumptions that will give us the confidence to scale up to a fully operational plant to manage our biosolids challenge.” 

Mr Sullivan also highlighted the importance of working together with industry peers to drive innovation in the water sector and address shared challenges like reducing waste, creating circular economies in water, and protecting our environment.  

“This project highlights the importance of collaborating with industry and research partners. When we coordinate our respective knowledge, expertise and resources towards a common goal, we can accelerate the adoption of new technologies that can transform the way the water industry operates.”

The Biosolids to Biochar project is being delivered in partnership with RMIT University, Intelligent Water Networks, South-East Water, Greater Western Water and Barwon Water with a $100,000 investment by the Federal Government.  

Featured image: A sample of the finished biochar. Image credit: South East Water.

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