Waste to energy facility planned for Melbourne’s north

Yarra Valley Water – Melbourne’s largest water and sewerage business – is developing an innovative Waste to Energy facility in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

The initiative will convert organic waste destined for landfills into energy – reducing energy costs, waste to landfill and greenhouse gas emissions.

The ambitious project is part of the utility’s approach to operating its facilities within the carrying capacity of nature, delivering better outcomes for the environment and customers.

Yarra Valley Water has selected Aquatec-Maxcon, an Australian company specialising in industrial wastewater treatment, as its partner to develop the facility.

Yarra Valley Water managing director Tony Kelly said the company is designing the Waste to Energy facility to sit next to an existing sewage treatment plant.

“The project will generate enough biogas to run the facility and the existing Sewage Treatment Plant by co-digesting sewage sludge with organic waste trucked to the site,” he said.

“It’s a great solution for reusing organic waste that would otherwise go to landfill. Instead of treating our sludge as waste, we’re treating it as a product with value that can be reused to create and capture methane gas resulting in significant environmental and cost benefits.”

The facility will provide an environmentally friendly disposal solution for organic wastes that cannot be composted.

‘The facility will help us meet our environmental obligations to reduce the quantity of nutrients being discharged into Port Phillip Bay, while creating a sewage treatment plant site that is energy self-sufficient,’ Mr Kelly says.

At the facility, sewage sludge left over from the treatment plant process would be co-digested with imported organic waste in an anaerobic digester (sealed vessel) where it is converted into methane or “biogas” in the absence of oxygen. Impressively, this process captures the methane before it hits the environment and turns it into renewable energy, preventing greenhouse gas emissions.

Co-digestion is a process that is successfully used throughout the world, particularly in Europe and the US.

Yarra Valley Water decided to use anaerobic digestion technology based on a business feasibility decision-making framework, which included a detailed site selection process to determine the most appropriate site for the first facility.

The feasibility study also identified numerous opportunities for recovery and re-use of organic waste.