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At Oakey Beef Exports, a biogas balloon is the green-energy solution it runs on every day. Doris Prodanovic finds out how Australia’s only installation of the system is performing, and how it is benefitting both the environment and the facility.

Turning waste into energy is part of the daily routine at Oakey Beef Exports in Queensland's Darling Downs region, and it has been for almost five years.

It is the only facility in Australia with Global Water & Energy’s (GWE) COHRAL (Covered High-Rate Anaerobic Lagoon) plant, producing 3000-4000m³ of biogas each day; reducing the site’s fossil fuel footprint, as well as its energy costs.

Oakey is one of four facilities run by NH Foods Australia and worked with Australian environmental engineering and green energy authority CST Wastewater Solutions to install the plant.

A flexible, PVC-coated polyester storage balloon with a capacity to produce and store 6000m³ of biogas, the COHRAL plant at Oakey operates through an anaerobic digestion process, removing 80-90 per cent of waste material from Oakey’s wastewater and converting it to biogas (primarily methane).

CST Wastewater Solutions managing director Michael Bambridge told Food & Drink Business the COHRAL plant remains in very good condition five years on. “It demonstrates what can be done with a great, environmentally engineered solution, and the maintenance of operating the system is a low cost,” says Bambridge.

“COHRAL was the first of its type in Australia five years ago and its initiative, along with similar sustainable projects, were introduced around the time of the Rudd Government. We have demand for it, but there’s been a lack of policy and incentive from the government now to help smaller and mid-sized companies run on more sustainable and economical solutions.”

“The good news is that we have seen the environment become more of a major issue at both federal and state levels recently – including in the federal election – so water quality and effluent reduction is becoming a mainstream concern.”

“As this happens, more food and beverage companies will come to see that environmental responsibility doesn’t have to be a burden, but can also be an opportunity to make a profit from proven waste-to-energy technologies.”

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