How Queensland's big new biogas plant could help save the planet

A gigantic biogas dome and world-first covered COHRAL™ anaerobic lagoon are set to save the Queensland abattoir of Oakey Beef Exports millions in natural gas fuel bills - and shrink its carbon footprint significantly.

This gigantic biogas storage dome and covered anaerobic lagoon are part of the new methane conversion plant at Oakey Beef Exports' Queensland abattoir.
This gigantic biogas storage dome and covered anaerobic lagoon are part of the new methane conversion plant at Oakey Beef Exports' Queensland abattoir.
CTS Wastewater

The dome and lagoon are key components of the company’s cutting-edge Global Water Engineering COHRAL™ plant, funded by parent company Nippon-ham (NH) Foods and officially opened in April 2015.

The Sattler-Ceno biogas dome – a 6,000 cubic-metre capacity, flexible PVC-coated, polyester-fibre storage tank – will collect biogas produced by the new plant’s GWE Covered High Rate Anaerobic Lagoon. The world’s first such treatment facility, it will extract 70 to 90 per cent of organic waste from the abattoir’s wastewater streams, converting it into green-energy (methane) gas.

The dome has been engineered to be permanently gas-tight, with high operational reliability and optimum safety. Its design has been tested over decades and is used in modern wastewater treatment plants worldwide.

Once it reaches full design capacity, the GWE COHRAL™ plant will produce 183.3 gigajoules of energy a day through methane combustion. The biogas generated will save Oakey Beef Exports’ abattoir on Queensland’s Darling Downs millions of dollars in fossil-fuel bills, reckons OBE’s general manager Pat Gleeson.

The company plans to re-use the biogas it creates in the abattoir’s boilers; initially, it is expected to replace about 50,000 gigajoules of natural gas a year. “The green energy produced represents 40 percent of our current usage of natural gas and will produce direct ongoing savings year after year,” Gleeson says. ”The cost of construction is expected to be repaid inside five years.”

This educational installation shows how cow poo can save the planet (possibly) by providing eco-friendly methane-fuelled biogas.
This educational installation shows how cow poo can save the planet (possibly) by providing eco-friendly methane-fuelled biogas.
Pirate Alice, Flickr

There are a herd of additional positives: waste water far cleaner than that of the average waste lagoons, a significant reduction in malodorous emissions, and greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

“Burning the methane will save the equivalent of 12,000 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to removing 2,700 cars from the road,” says Gleeson.

By simultaneously enhancing water quality and lowering fuel bills, GWE anaerobic wastewater green-energy plants worldwide have demonstrated that you can transform wastewater from a problematic expense into a profitable resource, says CST Wastewater Solutions Managing Director Michael Bambridge, whose company represents the GWE COHRAL™ technology in Australia and New Zealand.

“The safe, durable and environmentally harmonious COHRAL™ technology deployed at Oakey Beef can be widely applied worldwide to food, beverage and agricultural and primary processing plants,” he says.

Already, agribusinesses in Africa are saving a bundle by installing organic-waste biogas systems.

“Another outstanding benefit is that anaerobic digestion produces reliable and predictable base load power," Bambridge says. "Unlike some other green energy technologies, it is not dependent on the wind blowing or the sun shining."

The new plant, he notes, will help companies such as Oakey guard against rises in energy costs and “possible future imposts” such as a carbon tax.

“Oakey Beef Processing and its owners Nippon Meat Packers have taken a far-sighted initiative that opens the way to cleaner, greener and more profitable industry performance,” Bambridge says,

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