The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced funding for a pioneering project which aims to turn biosolids from sewage into crude oil.
On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is set to provide up to $4 million in funding towards Southern Oil Refining for their pilot project at a refinery near Gladstone, Queensland. The $11.8 million project involves building a demonstration scale hydrothermal liquefaction reactor which would produce the renewable crude oil from biosolids. The hydrothermal liquefaction is set to involve the treatment of the biosolids using a thermochemical conversion process to produce a biocrude. Following this, the renewable crude oil will be upgraded to renewable diesel and potentially renewable jet fuel using the Southern Oil Refining’s existing facilities (which re-refines waste oils such as transmission and engine oils).
Biosolids are a byproduct of the treatment of wastewater. Currently, in Australia, over 300,000 tonnes of biosolids are produced annually through sewage treatment, being managed and treated in various ways. In partnership with Melbourne Water, Southern Oil will use stockpiled biosolids at Melbourne Water’s wastewater treatment facility in Werribee, Victoria to characterise the crude oil that is produced from those biosolids. Biosolids will also be used from a local sewage treatment facility. ARENA has stated that this is the first step to developing biosolid waste to renewable fuel plants at sewage treatment plants in Australia.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project offered further opportunities for waste diversion while also helping with Australia’s fuel security.
“A crucial service like wastewater treatment, unfortunately, produces a significant amount of leftover waste, so we’re particularly excited to see Southern Oil Refining’s project deliver an option to divert biosolids into a recycled, renewable form of energy,” announced Frischknecht, “biosolids are produced at sewage treatment facilities across the country and often stockpiled so this project could literally turn waste into fuel,” he said.
Managing Director of Southern Oil Refining, Tim Rose, further highlighted the national implications of ARENA’s commitment to the project.
“This ARENA funding will facilitate Australia’s largest ever demonstration scale reactor using wastewater treatment biosolids to produce renewable crude oil. We will then refine this crude oil into 100 per cent renewable fuels,” Mr Rose said.
“With wastewater treatment stockpiles across the country, this project is entirely scalable, and I believe will ultimately lead to the production of hundreds of millions of litres of renewable fuel each year in Australia. This outcome would greatly benefit the environment, be tremendous for the economy while improving Australia’s fuel security,” he shared.
Melbourne Water’s Manager of Treatment and Resources, Jenelle Watson, has also shared her thoughts on the project, stating that she believes that the hydrothermal liquefaction technology has a lot of potential to extract value from biosolids and contribute to the renewable fuels market.
More information on this announcement can be accessed here.