Striking renewable oil using sewage in Gladstone | RenewEconomy

Striking renewable oil using sewage in Gladstone

Australian Renewable Energy Agency backs pioneering project aiming to turn biosolids from sewage into crude oil.



The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced funding for a pioneering project aiming to turn biosolids from sewage into crude oil.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is providing up to $4 million in funding to Southern Oil Refining for its pilot project at its refinery near Gladstone, Queensland.

The $11.8 million project involves building a demonstration scale hydrothermal liquefaction reactor to produce the renewable crude oil from biosolids. The hydrothermal liquefaction will involve the treatment of the biosolids using a thermochemical conversion process to produce a biocrude.

The renewable crude oil will then be upgraded to renewable diesel and potentially renewable jet fuel using Southern Oil Refining’s existing facilities that re-refine waste oils such as transmission and engine oils.

Biosolids are a byproduct of the treatment of wastewater. There are currently over 300,000 tonnes of biosolids produced annually through sewage treatment in Australia.

Currently these biosolids are managed and treated in a number of ways including stockpiling.

Southern Oil has partnered with Melbourne Water and will use stockpiled biosolids at Melbourne Water’s wastewater treatment facility at Werribee, Victoria so as to characterise the crude oil that is produced from those particular biosolids.

The project will also utilise biosolids from a local sewage treatment facility. The demonstration is the first step to developing biosolid waste to renewable fuel plants at sewage treatment plants in

ARENA has previously funded Southern Oil Refining to build a first-of-its-kind biocrude and biofuel laboratory and testing facility built onsite at Gladstone as part of its advanced biofuel pilot plant.
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.

“Biosolids are produced at sewage treatment facilities across the country, and often stockpiled so this project could literally turn waste that into fuel,” he said.

Managing Director of Southern Oil Refining, Mr Tim Rose, further highlighted the national implications of ARENA’s commitment to this 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 drop in renewable fuels” he said.

“With waste water 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 added.

Melbourne Water’s Manager of Treatment and Resources Jenelle Watson said: “The hydrothermal liquefaction technology has so much potential to extract value from biosolids and contribute to the renewable fuels market. Melbourne Water is excited to be partnering with Southern Oil Refining and ARENA to develop hydrothermal liquefaction to a commercial scale.”

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  1. Joe 2 years ago

    And how much energy does the process use? Will the New Oil it be commercially viable? I’ve seen programs showing that biosolids are used as farm fertiliser so why isn’t more of this being done?

    • solarguy 2 years ago

      Agree not enough info on this process and I’d say RE would power it. There is a lot of energy in bio waste, really lots. It’s common sense to use it and cut down on methane emissions.

      • Joe 2 years ago

        Hello my Solarman. We continue our unity ticket with better using ‘bio resources’ which seem to be largely ignored here in Australia.

      • phillyc 2 years ago

        Methane is 25x the greenhouse effect of CO2. So, creating fuel even which then gets burnt is a much better proposition. Hopefully the trial is a success and the process is commercialised by them or another Australian company.

        Wonder how many litres per ton is produced. Australia imports or consumes 32 Billion litres of fuel per year.

        • solarguy 2 years ago

          It’s a resource that needs to be used. My local treatment works could produce about 3000 litres of petrol equivalent/day if my rough calcs are correct, even more if green and food waste is used. CSIRO research developed a process that reacted water with methane at temperatures of 750-1000c using CST which adds H2 giving 25% more calorific value to the methane (solar syngas).

          That would create 112,500 litres of petrol equivalent/month, that could be used to help keep the lights on during a week of cloudy windless weather and PV is producing little in any given region.

          Excess could be sold as bottled gas for various uses such as cooking, selected heavy transport and industrial uses.

        • Mike Shurtleff 2 years ago

          Exactly, win-win. You can also just use the methane directly.

    • charles frogg 2 years ago

      Just like the Ethanol industry where it takes 1.2 litres of ethanol in energy to produce 1 litre of ethanol. And where does the extra energy come from, Like all small scale labor and energy intensive industries it always takes more energy usually coal or crude oil produced energy to produce a piddling small amount of worshipped so called bio friendly renewable fuels.

    • Mike Shurtleff 2 years ago

      “I’ve seen programs showing that biosolids are used as farm fertiliser so why isn’t more of this being done?”
      Spread of disease! You have to treat human sewage, autoclave it (high neat and pressure), to prevent recycling of disease and parasite organisms into the human population. You could do this with a solar autoclave in Australia. Not sure how cost effectively this could be done.
      Works to use biosolids for fertilizers in forestry and this is done some in USA.

      You can actually do both. Extract carbon chain stored energy in form of bio-oil and leave nutrients behind to be used as fertilizer. NG (methane) can be captured most easily from solid waste fermentation and used directly to produce electricity when needed. 100s of dairy farms in the USA capture methane from cattle waste and use for electricity or sell as addition to existing NG pipelines.

      • Coley 2 years ago

        The other reason it can’t be used in food production is the amount of chemicals in the end product, usually from the huge array of medicines consumed by humans.

        • Mike Shurtleff 2 years ago

          I hadn’t ever considered that. Thanks.

  2. dono 2 years ago

    ………. There are currently over 300,000 tonnes of biosolids produced annually through sewage treatment in Australia. Currently these biosolids are managed and treated in a number of ways including stockpiling………Stockpiling is not managing , nor is it treating, its just delaying the inevitable.

  3. Simon Garden 2 years ago

    A different outcome to a similar problem is the work by 1414 Degrees for SA Water, at the Glenelg Waste Water Treatment Plant. Due to come online in second half of 2018.
    GAS-TESS 10MWh+

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