Michael OKeeffe (Manager, Rockhampton Regional Waste and Recycling), Professor Sergio Capareda from Texas A&M University, CQUni researcher Dr Nihal Gamage and CQUniversity Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath.
Michael OKeeffe (Manager, Rockhampton Regional Waste and Recycling), Professor Sergio Capareda from Texas A&M University, CQUni researcher Dr Nihal Gamage and CQUniversity Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath. Jann Houley

CQUni working with world leader to turn trash into treasure

SOME look at a pile of waste and see a problem. Others see an opportunity to produce value-added products such as heat, power and biofuels.

CQUniversity hopes to convert more of the former into the latter.

CQUniversity Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath spent seven months in Professor Capareda's laboratory in the USA and was able to carry out a range of experiments in the field of biofuels.

"Now Professor Capareda is visiting us on three months' sabbatical leave and he has discussed with regional councils a waste oil to biofuel producer and a local cotton gin corporation, giving us his view of how and what to do with the waste materials," Associate Professor Ashwath says.

"Our visitor has travelled around Queensland, has seen the waste issues that Queensland and Australia are currently addressing.

 

Recycling plant at RRC waste facility
Recycling plant at RRC waste facility Jann Houley

"For example, there are plastic bottles, plastic films used in the agricultural industry, cotton gin waste, forestry off-cuts, mango and macadamia prunings, green waste etc."

While based at CQUniversity's Central Queensland Innovation and Research Precinct (CQIRP), in North Rockhampton, Professor Capareda has been focused on Clean Energy Technologies within the Centre for Intelligent Systems.

The visitor is working with Associate Professor Ashwath as well as Professor Masud Khan and Associate Professor Mohammad Rasul.

CQUniversity is in discussions with a range of industries seeking their participation in a research project to develop a mobile bioenergy unit to service Central Queensland.

"With this mobile gasification unit, we could travel to places where waste resources are located, and demonstrate how well we can convert different types of wastes into value-added products such as biofuels and chemicals that can be used as soil conditioners (biochar and bioliquor) and as a precursor for chemical manufacturing (bioliquor, biochar)," Associate Professor Ashwath said.

"Some of the products can also be used in fuel cells which could have a huge demand in the future.

"Professor Capareda has also agreed to co-supervise our post graduate students who are working on beauty leaf tree and biofuel feedstocks.

"CQUni is currently working on establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with Texas A&M University to further this research collaboration."

Professor Capareda is the author of the leading textbook, an Introduction to Biomass Energy Conversions, published by CRC Press.

This technical guide prepares students for managing bio-refineries, no matter what type of biofuel is produced. It also provides practicing engineers with a resource for starting a small biofuel business.

Researchers from CQUni recently had conversations with Rockhampton regional council to introduce a world-leading authority, Professor Sergio Capareda from Texas A&M University.

Professor Capareda, over three decades, has developed a versatile thermal conversion technology via pyrolysis (high-temperature decomposition under oxygen-free conditions) and gasification.

These state-of-the art fluidised bed facilities can generate heat and electrical power under carefully controlled use of an oxidant (gasification mode).

Combustible gas, liquid biooil and biochar are the major co-products, if operated in the pyrolysis mode (no oxygen) and using inert gas for fluidisation.

Several companies in the US have licensed this technology for conversion of various wastes (e.g. municipal solid waste, wood wastes, biosolids, and poultry litter) into heat and electrical power with biochar and bio-oil as major by-products.

The visiting professor showcased his research processes and simple economic cost-benefit analysis which helped a city council in the USA convert municipal solid waste into syngas for power generation.

The alternative was to have the trash emitting greenhouse gases.

"I optimised the process to produce syngas and after that it became boring because it just continued to generate good quality gas day in day out without any hassles," he said.

"They were happy and I helped them build a facility that generated a megawatt of power from 1.5 tonnes of waste feed per hour.

"Once the gas is generated, we clean it properly and inject it into an engine that generates one megawatt of power continuously."

CQUni's School of Graduate Research has also recently announced a Clean Energy Research Higher Degree Academy, which will support research higher degree activities in this thematic area. 



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