BeneTerra receives innovation award for resourceful new leachate process

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Environmental solutions specialists BeneTerra have been recognised as the winner of the 2019 Innovation Award at the 2019 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference.

Colin Sweet, CEO of the Australian Landfill Owners Association, presenting Tony Stapleton, CEO of BeneTerra, with the Innovation Award

Colin Sweet, CEO of the Australian Landfill Owners Association, presenting Tony Stapleton, CEO of BeneTerra, with the Innovation Award.

The event’s Innovation and Excellence Awards were established in 2007 to showcase the year’s most important achievements in landfills and transfer stations, and BeneTerra’s BeneVap leachate treatment technology was judged to be a critical development for the sector.

The BeneVap manages leachate by utilising an automated thermal evaporation process that is able to significantly reduce the volume of wastewater by up to 97 per cent. Using landfill gas as fuel, the system eliminates the need for sewerage connections, wastewater haulage, wastewater treatment plant infrastructure and the need for leachate ponds.

This breakthrough in sustainable leachate treatment, which offers substantial economic benefits over the more traditional method of trucking and disposing leachate, all started with a partnership in Queensland that was built on a shared passion for sustainable waste solutions.

Building a new system to benefit both business and the environment 

Since the late 1990’s, Swanbank Renewable Energy and Waste Management Facility, the provider of waste services to South East Queensland, has held sustainable waste management to a high standard.

Owned and operated by Remondis Australia, a global leader in recycling and water management, the Swanbank facility was an ideal location for BeneTerra to begin building and testing its new leachate management project in 2017.

The challenge that BeneTerra faced in developing its system was finding a leachate-removal method that was both environmentally sustainable and cost-effective for businesses.

This isn’t an easy balance to strike. Traditional multi-stage treatment systems are prone to maintenance issues, breakdowns and high costs, and options to discharge into sewers are becoming more onerous and costly.

Working together, BeneTerra and Remondis determined that the outcome of their project should significantly reduce landfill operating costs and improve the health of the environment for the long term.

A focus on sustainability

Conventional techniques for managing leachate include discharging it to a sewer (either direct or via a truck), and employing water treatment processes such as reverse osmosis, filtration or dissolved air flotation, among others.

BeneTerra’s BeneVap machine in action at the Swanbank facilityWhile these techniques can be effective, regulatory requirements have forced landfill operators to tighten their purse strings, and trucking out or discharging leachate to a sewer has become increasingly expensive.

BeneTerra’s BeneVap machine connects directly to the leachate collection systems at the Swanbank facility, eliminating the need to install leachate collection ponds or alternative treatment facilities.

The technology works by blowing hot bubbles into a liquid solution. Water vapour forms inside the bubbles and is evacuated at atmospheric pressure from the concentration vessel. The mass of solution never reaches boiling point during the process, and the concentration vessel is never pressurised.

The process successfully removes ammonia and volatile organic compounds from the leachate, ensuring that these compounds do not accumulate inside the landfill. In addition, the BeneVap precipitates heavy metals from the leachate in a non-soluble form, enabling these compounds to be returned to the landfill without increasing the toxicity of these elements within the landfill cell.

This is a big step forward in creating a circular treatment system for leachate, ensuring that these troublesome compounds are not released into rivers or out to sea, or accumulated in biosolids, as they would be if discharged to a sewer.

The BeneVap machine is powered by gas naturally produced from the landfill — which would otherwise be flared — creating a single stage submerged combustion process in an energy efficient and sustainable manner.

A number of baseline improvements

BeneVap’s non-reliance on road transport means fewer emissions and improvements in road safety. In addition, manpower requirements are minimal as the BeneVap can be remotely monitored or controlled.

Traditional multi-stage treatment systems are maintenance-intensive and can be a massive drain on treatment facility resources. With only one main moving part (an air blower) and layers of in-built automation, maintenance on the BeneVap takes a mere four hours per month.

The system’s approach also ensures that leachate contaminants do not reach waterways, resulting in a better environmental outcome than current trade waste practices.

Wade Elofson, Founder and CEO of energy and resources-focused business development firm Powered, congratulated BeneTerra on its Innovation Award and praised the BeneVap for its invaluable contribution to Australia’s waste sector.

“BeneTerra’s BeneVap treatment system is the first of its kind in Australia and has significantly reduced management time and operating costs for landfill operators,” Mr Elofson said.

“Its smaller environmental impact compared to traditional systems also serves as an important contribution to Australia’s long-term sustainability goals.”

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