Australian Centre for Water
and Environmental Biotechnology

Advance Qld Fellowship: recovering energy from wastewater

Thursday, 21 April 2016
  • Dr Shihu Hu (right) and colleague Dr Maxime Rattier at the QUU Innovation Centre

A University of Queensland researcher has been awarded a significant Advance Queensland Research Fellowship for his wastewater treatment partnership with Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU).

The AU$300,000 Advance Queensland Research Fellowship program (an initiative of the Queensland Government) supports researchers undertaking original work that will have a positive impact on Queensland.

Dr Shihu Hu, from the University of Queensland’s Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC), said he will use the fellowship to demonstrate the new technologies that have been developed in the AWMC laboratories.

“We are developing next generation treatment processes to maximise bioenergy recovery from wastewater,” said Dr Hu.

The organic waste present in wastewater can be broken down to produce a methane-rich biogas. Once the biogas has been recovered from the waste, it can be used to replace other fuel sources, to supply heat and power or even to fuel vehicles.

“These new technologies can capture the majority of the organic carbon for conversion into bioenergy,” said Dr Hu.

“It’s more efficient, and more sustainable; it’s going to have a strong impact on the industry.”

“We expect that the Queensland water industry will rapidly adopt some of these new demonstrated technologies, and change from energy consumers to energy neutral, resulting in a much more sustainable industry,” Dr Hu said.

Dr Hu has worked collaboratively with QUU since 2011, and he and his colleague’s research at the QUU Innovation Centre can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings every year for the utility service once the new technologies he has developed are applied.

Wastewater treatment plants are energy-intensive and account for up to twenty percent of municipal energy consumption.

“This paradigm shift corresponds to a potential saving of one sixth of the current municipal energy consumption,” he said.

Dr Shihu Hu was presented the fellowship award at a ceremony at Brisbane’s Parliament House by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on April 20th, 2016.