26 February 2013
RDC Chief Executive Peter Guerin's 'Council Talk' column in today's Daily Post.
The recent announcement that Rotorua District Council (RDC) has secured a government grant of nearly $5 million dollars is stunning news for our local environment and outstanding news for Rotorua ratepayers as well.
It means we can build a waste treatment plant right here in Rotorua utilising world-leading, locally-developed technology to turn sewage into valuable resources.
The $4.7 million grant is the biggest ever made from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund and is recognition of a world-first technological breakthrough by our partners, Crown Research Institute Scion. The new patented technology has been trademark protected under the name ‘TERAX,’ with joint ownership by the council and Scion.
Scientists from Scion have been working on processes to solve waste problems for a number of years and are currently undertaking further research into how the TERAX technology can be applied to other industrial organic waste streams.
Rotorua’s new state-of-the-art treatment plant will use TERAX to convert sewage sludge into energy and other useful products. It will be constructed to full commercial scale, as a demonstration model, at the city’s wastewater treatment facility, where a smaller scale pilot plant has been successfully tested over the last year or so.
TERAX involves two processes. The first ferments the sludge to reduce volume, the second uses high pressure, temperature and oxygen to break down solids and release energy and valuable chemicals.
The potential for this, over and above its application here in Rotorua, is unlimited. It could in the future make a significant difference to how New Zealand cities and primary industries deal with organic waste. The amount of organic waste going to landfills and the toxins they create could be substantially cut and the costs associated with landfilling waste significantly reduced, right across the country.
TERAX is capable of reducing the volume of landfill by 90 per cent and greenhouse gases by up to 70 per cent. If adopted by councils nationwide an estimated two million tonnes of biodegradable waste could be successfully treated every year.
On top of this, it will provide a valuable source of income from the generation of industrial chemicals to be used for fertilisers and other biomaterials. In Rotorua District Council’s case, products produced by TERAX will be used at the wastewater treatment plant to reduce our chemical purchase costs. It’s clearly a win-win for Rotorua ratepayers and the environment.
The new commercial-scale TERAX demonstration plant to be built in Rotorua is already capturing the attention of other organisations from throughout New Zealand and overseas. RDC and our partners Scion intend making the process available to other New Zealand councils on preferred terms.
We’re also setting up a jointly-owned company to manage further commercialisation opportunities that exist for the technology further afield.
Construction of Rotorua’s full scale world-first TERAX demonstration plant will get underway next year and the plant is expected to be operating later in the year.
Peter Guerin is chief executive of Rotorua District Council