Human waste turned into renewable energy at Australia’s first biosolids gasification plant

Logan, south of Brisbane, has become the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to turn human waste into renewable energy with the opening of Australia’s first biosolids gasification plant.

Water is taken out of the sewage sludge, which is then dried out before going into a furnace where it is burnt, and the gases produced are used to power the facility.

What remains is a substance called biochar, which can be used as a high-grade fertiliser in the agricultural sector or in building materials.

At the opening of the facility, Logan City Council Mayor Darren Power said although the biochar came from human waste, it does not smell like sewage.

“That was the first thing I did when I picked it up, I had to smell it. There is no smell in it at all,” Mr Power said.

Logan City Council said the project would reduce carbon emissions by about 6,000 tons a year and save the council $1 million annually.

Biochar can be used as a high-grade fertiliser in the agricultural sector or in building materials.(Supplied: Logan City Council)

‘World would be a much better place’

“It’s pushing us toward carbon neutrality and it’s obviously helping the world overcome its issues,” Mr Power said.

“This facility could be the first in the world — I’ve been told it certainly is the first in the Southern Hemisphere and it is certainly the first in Australia.”

The council has committed to be carbon neutral by the end of 2022.

Man wearing a light purple business shirt standing outside.
Logan Mayor Darren Power says although the biochar came from human waste, it does not smell like sewage(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

‘Complex little piece of engineering’

The gasification process destroys chemicals in biosolids such as microplastics, allowing it to be used for other things.

Logan Water group manager Mike Basterfield said it was “quite a complex little piece of engineering”.

“The idea really came from the trucking problem,” Mr Basterfield said.

“We were sending an enormous number of trucks through the community, using a lot of diesel, and it was costing us a lot of money.”

Aerial view biosolids gasification facility at Logan, south of Brisbane
The Logan council has committed to be carbon neutral by the end of 2022.(Supplied: Logan City Council)

Six trucks a day were transporting sewage sludge from Logan to the Darling Downs, however that would now be reduced to one truck a week.

“It really started as cost reduction process, but the benefits of sequestering carbon, biochar and then the uses that we think we can find for that material with the research we are now doing, it has just become a fantastic project to be a part of ,” Mr Basterfield said.

Aerial view biosolids gasification facility at Logan, south of Brisbane.
The gasification process destroys chemicals in biosolids such as microplastics, allowing it to be used for other things.(Supplied: Logan City Council)

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