Australian Centre for Water
and Environmental Biotechnology

Queensland Takes the Top Spot in Research Innovation

Thursday, 18 May 2017
  • Shihu Hu, Louise Dudley, Sandra Hall, Jurg Keller at the OzWater Award Night

A University of Queensland-led research-industry collaboration has become the first Queensland based winner of the Australian Water Association’s National Research Innovation Award.

The Affordable and Sustainable Water Recycling through Optimal Technology Integration project successfully claimed this prestigious national award against twenty other outstanding applications from all over Australia.

Dr Shihu Hu, the project’s manager and co-chief investigator (CI) from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC), said that while UQ research often wins the State based awards it is the first time for them to win the National Research Innovation Award.

“It’s an honour to be the first Queensland project to win this award, but we aren’t going to rest on our laurels,” said Dr Hu.

“Thanks to the success of this project we have started many follow up projects with other major water utilities around Australia.”

The winning project successfully managed significant technical and organisational challenges.

“Knowing that traditional treatment solutions are quite energy intensive we realised that good research, leading to tangible outcomes, is required to affect change in the industry,” said project collaborator Quentin Rider from Wide Bay Water.

“I think we witnessed these tangible outcomes and at the core of this success was having world class researchers and industry partners working together.”

The project set out to demonstrate, at pilot-scale, several next-generation wastewater treatment technologies for the first time in Australia.

“Wastewater treatment is no longer just about managing pollutants,” said Chris Hertle, Australian Market Leader – Water at GHD and AWMC Adjunct Professor.

“There is a growing focus on recovering energy, which can now be done more cost-effectively thanks to this research project.”

The team brought together a variety of industry partners, including Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU), Melbourne Water, GHD, and Wide Bay Water (now part of Fraser Coast Council) with the world-leading researchers at the Advanced Water Management Centre, UQ. The project was funded by the Australia Water Recycling Centre of Excellence.

“This project is not just a one off, it’s starting a paradigm shift in water treatment technologies,” said AWMC Deputy Director and the project’s leading CI Professor Jurg Keller.

"Getting all these new treatment reactors set up and integrated to process thousands of litres of wastewater per day was a tough challenge, but we managed to get them going well in the end!" said Dr Maxime Rattier, who worked hard to achieve this success with the team.

This project has now shown a new solution to achieve a high level of nitrogen removal without using organic carbon, thus enabling maximum bioenergy recovery from wastewater.

“One of the significant contributions from this project is the growth of a sustained anammox culture in South East Queensland and demonstrating that anammox process technologies can be directly applied to Australian conditions,” said Colin Chapman, the Innovation Research & Development Manager of QUU.

“Based on the outcomes of this project, QUU has decided to implement the anammox process at full-scale, which could save our operations cost at half million per year.”

Anammox holds great promises to shift the energy balance of sewage treatment to neutral or even positive.

“This ambitious and successful project has led to important follow-on work and a great drawing together of interested and committed people and organisations from across the Australian water industry,” said project collaborator Joel Segal from Melbourne Water.

In total 15 AWMC researchers participated in the project, with Professors Jurg Keller, Damien Batstone, and Zhiguo Yuan, and Drs Shihu Hu and Maxime Rattier as the key team members.