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Showcasing sustainability at one of Australia's largest sewage treatment plants

At Australia’s third-largest sewage treatment plant, innovative technologies are putting the focus firmly on resource recovery.

Urban Utilities’ Luggage Point facility processes waste from about 800,000 people in the Brisbane region, including commercial trade waste.

From this, three resources are extracted: recycled water, energy from biogas, and biosolids for agricultural use.

“We have an ultrafiltration reverse osmosis process attached to the backend of our site, which supplies recycled water,” Luggage Point Biosolids and Energy Team Leader Peter Degens said.

“Part of this water is used by the Brisbane Airport Corporation for its new runway.”

The scheme produced about 450 ML of water in the last financial year.

Degens will discuss Luggage Point’s approach to sustainability and resource recovery at the Australian Water Association’s QWater’19 conference in Brisbane this month, alongside Treatment Plant Team Leader Stanley McKercher.

He said he wants to highlight how Urban Utilities is using new technologies to produce outcomes that benefit the community and the environment, in a cost-effective way.

This includes generating biogas and using this to create energy that helps power the Luggage Point Resource Recovery Centre.

“Through co-generation, we create about 60% of the power used on-site to run all of our equipment,” Degens said.

“We’re using a cleaner, greener energy source and reducing our load on the energy supply.”

He said turning waste into a resource is becoming increasingly important in the Australian water sector, and is something he expects to see a lot more of in the coming years.

“We no longer see our job as to just treat sewage,” he said.

“Instead, it’s a resource that we can recover and reuse to create efficiencies and improve environmental outcomes.

“[Resource recovery] is not just something the industry can do, but what we should be doing; we can’t continue doing things the way they have been done for the last 30 or 40 years.”

In a testament to this, Urban Utilities has partnered with the University of Queensland on the Luggage Point Innovation Precinct, where scientists work alongside engineers and operators to develop new ideas.

Through this collaboration, new techniques are trialled that could prove beneficial for water utilities across the country, and Degens said Urban Utilities is continuously trying to improve.

“I used to work in the mining sector, where anything new and innovative is kept close to a company’s chest,” he said.

“The water industry is different – we’re more than happy to share our learnings with other operators so they can apply it to their situation where they see fit.

“That’s what I really like about QWater: it’s an open forum to exchange ideas … I hope people get something out of it that they can apply to their own business because the more people are improving what’s happening in their process, the better we’ll all be for it.”

Hear more from Peter Degens and Stanley McKercher at the AWA’s QWater’19 conference, held in Brisbane from 20 to 21 November. To learn more and to register, click here.

YWP’s also have an opportunity to tour the Luggage Point facility in March 2020 as part of the AWA / IWA Australia New Zealand YWP Conference. Click here for more information.