Council aims to turn sewage into cash

A council-owned water service provider in Queensland hopes to turn a product made from sewage in a sustainable revenue stream for Council.

Mike Basterfield

Logan Water is currently looking for parties interested in buying commercial quantities of ‘biochar’, a charcoal-like material produced by treating the sewage sludge at high temperatures in a low oxygen environment in a process known as pyrolysis.

The resulting product is sterile, odourless and high in nutrients, and can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from agriculture to construction.

The process of making biochar was honed at the Loganholme Wastewater Treatment Plant (LWWTP) during biosolids gasification trials in 2020.

A $28 million permanent biosolids gasification facility is being constructed at LWWTP  with the help of a $6 million grant from the renewable energy agency ARENA and is expected to come online by the middle of next year.

Logan City is the first Australian council to produce biochar from biosolids on
a commercial scale.

Reducing carbon

City of Logan Infrastructure Chair Councillor Teresa Lane says biochar can create a sustainable revenue stream for Council, while benefitting industry and the environment.

“It has many uses for different industries so I’m sure the tender process will attract plenty of interest,” Cr Lane said.

She says pyrolysis, or biosolids gasification, dramatically reduces carbon emissions while destroying harmful chemicals present in biosolids including micro-plastics.

Logan Water’s Group Manager Mike Basterfield says council currently sends six truckloads of treated waste to the Darling Downs to be used as a soil conditioner each day.

Transforming the sludge into biochar will mean that’s no longer necessary, and will save Council costs and carbon by taking the trucks off the road.

“The gasification process will reduce the volume of biosolids by 90 per cent, cutting carbon dioxide emission by 4800 tonnes per year,” Mr Basterfield said.

City of Logan’s Infrastructure Chair Teresa Lane says says biochar can create a sustainable revenue stream while benefitting the environment.

Market value to be determined

A spokeswoman said Council hasn’t yet calculated what the sale of biochar could be worth per year and the tenders it received would help determine market value.

“Council cannot speculate on the value per tonne of biochar as it is a new and innovative product for the local market,” she told Government News.

“The commercial sale of biochar is currently out to tender and Council expects interest
from a variety of agriculture and construction industry representatives.”

Logan Water, a partnership between Logan City Council, Downer, Cardno and WSP,
designed and constructed the gasification facility which produces the biochar.

The project marked an important milestone earlier this year with the arrival of purpose-built 18-metre-long dryers from Germany.

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