13/05/2003 - 22:00

Home grown organic technology

13/05/2003 - 22:00

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IN a field dominated by interstate and overseas companies, Perth-based Organic Resource Technologies stands out as a homegrown developer of waste treatment technology.

Home grown organic technology

IN a field dominated by interstate and overseas companies, Perth-based Organic Resource Technologies stands out as a homegrown developer of waste treatment technology.

ORT’s technology could have a profound impact on the way local government looks at waste treatment.

In particular, the small scale and very low odour potential of ORT’s technology could make it feasible for individual councils to build plants in close proximity to the waste source.

That would be a big change from the current trend towards regional councils building large waste treatment plants on the urban fringe.

ORT already has an agreement with the West Metropolitan Reg-ional Council to build a $4 million demonstration plant at the Brockway Road transfer station in Shenton Park.

If the demonstration plant performs to expectations, ORT could receive the go-ahead to build a full-scale $10 million plant.

ORT also has a memorandum of understanding with Atlas Group that could result in ORT converting an unused biodigestion tank at Atlas’ Noranda plant to its DiCOM process.

Atlas Group had originally planned a two-phase waste treatment process, using tanks to recover energy and aerobic digestion to produce compost.

In practice, it has simply transported its sorted organic waste to a farm at Calingiri for production of compost.

Converting an existing tank to the DiCOM process would be subject to planning and environmental approvals.

ORT’s DiCOM technology incorporates a hybrid biological process that converts solid waste into biogas and compost from the same pressure vessel.

The plant is entirely energy self-sufficient and produces high-grade odourless compost after just 14 days of treatment – about half the time of other options.

The technology was conceived by ORT director Thomas Rudas, who formerly worked at both Cleanaway and Atlas Group.

It was developed out of frustration at the available choices.

“We couldn’t find anything overseas that was applicable to this market,” Mr Rudas said.

ORT’s system has several attractions, according to operations manager at West Metro Regional Council, Bernie Burnett.

First, the plant has a very small footprint, as the pressure vessels are positioned vertically, and therefore it can fit into confined spaces such as the Brockway Road transfer station.

Second, the process is cost- effective at low volumes. The demonstration plant would process 20,000 tonnes of waste per annum, and a full-scale plant would process 60,000 tonnes per annum.

That is about one third the capacity of the $35 million Bedminster plant built recently at Canning Vale.

Mr Burnett said a full-scale plant would remove the need to truck West Metro’s raw municipal waste 50 kilometres to the Red Hill landfill.

It would also deliver direct control of waste treatment to the councils in the West Metro area, whereas now they use a landfill run by the East Metro Regional Council.

Mr Rudas said ORT had already spent about $2.5 million on technology development, including a small pilot plant.

It has been aided by support from a number of engineering and technology companies such as Forwes Technologies, Scenna Constructions, Spirac Engineering and Honeywell. It is now raising funds so that it can proceed to the $4 million demonstration plant.

“Our goal is to have a commercial size plant in operation by the end of the year, so we can demonstrate the technology to the wider market,” Mr Rudas told WA Business News.

He said ORT had always focused on technology that would make commercial sense in WA.

Reduced transport costs, based on the prospect of building ORT plants close to the waste source, would be one of its key selling points.

If the ORT plant were to proceed, the City of Subiaco, for instance, would have to truck its waste just a few kilometres to Shenton Park.

The neighbouring municipality, Town of Cambridge, which is affiliated with the Mindarie Regional Council, faces a very different prospect. If the MRC’s proposed secondary treatment plant were to proceed at its preferred site at Neerabup, north of Wanneroo, then Town of Cambridge would have to truck its waste about 45 kilometres.

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