Australian Companies Helping to Green the Planet by Showing How to Recharge, Recover, Recycle, Reuse and Reflect

Paint it White
Fantastic Plastic
The Silicone Silver Lining
Electric Car Getz Safety Approval
Smart Stations Save Energy
Cool Antidote to Global Warming
Mother Nature’s Little Helper
Waving It In


There can be no more important mission for today’s innovators than saving the planet. In Australia, the cleantech industry recently rose to the challenge at Enviro 08, the nation’s premier conference dealing with environmental and sustainability issues. Anthill went along and met some exhibitors showing the world how to recharge, recover, recycle, reuse and reflect, keeping the planet green and serene.

Paint it White

Like all the best inventions, this one is simple but highly effective. A white paint-like coating for industrial and commercial rooftops that reflects 85 percent of the sun’s rays, while removing heat trapped in the sub-roof cavity.

For one product to possess both reflective and radiant properties is uncommon and came about almost by accident, according to Rex Lehmann, Managing Director of SkyCool.

“SkyCool is a very effective solar, infra-red reflector, so it bounces back most of the heat. But the thing that differentiates it from top-end white paint is its radiation capability. It radiates heat, conducted through to it from the roof or from inside the building. It basically sends that heat back into space,” he says.

“In 1999, Perth-based chemist Conrad Wojtysiak (now deceased) was working on a thermal-type product and we were testing it in the solar environment. We suggested he change the product’s composition so it performed better under sunlight. Our testing facilities showed that the new product was also maintaining air spaces – the air trapped under the tin roof – at below ambient temperatures,” says Lehmann.

Further tests by the University of Technology, Sydney and the Queensland University of Technology confirmed the results. Field trials on large-scale supermarkets and shopping centres have shown decrease in sub-roof temperatures from 65˚C to 25˚C. This means temperatures in the occupied space, i.e. where customers shop, are reduced from high-thirties to mid-twenties, translating to a dramatic decrease in the use of air-conditioning.

SkyCool has been applied to 70 rooftops around the country, including Melbourne Airport, supermarkets, Direct Factory Outlets, schools, warehouses, clubs and resorts. The product is manufactured in Sydney and is easy and cheap to export. Responding to high demand from South Asia, Lehmann is establishing a Singapore office.

Residential demand is low however, because, according to Lehmann, “it comes in any colour, as long as it’s white.”

Fantastic Plastic

When waste becomes a raw material, you know it’s good for the environment. And when that raw material is transformed into a product rivalling wood and metal, it’s even better.

Repeat Plastics Australia boasts over 200 products with a variety of applications, all made from 100 percent postconsumer and post-industrial recycled plastic. Sold under the brand name Replas, products include garden furniture, signs, bollards, boardwalks and decking.

According to Peter Patterson, General Manager of Replas Victoria, the range of applications is set to expand.

“We want to broaden the application of the product and get landscape architects and designers to start looking at new ways to use it. We want to get people to use it in an inventive, innovative way,” he says.

Replas products are made from recycled polypropylene and polyethylene, which translates to a number two, four or five recycle code found on most packaging. Waste plastic, sourced from kerbside collections, hospitals and other industrial waste, is melted down and poured into moulds to create a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

“Our main competition is from timber and steel,” says Patterson. “Price-wise, we are quite competitive. We are on a par with quality timber now as it becomes scarcer. However, our products have a lifespan of two to three times that of timber.”

Patterson is enthusiastic about the potential for Replas in marine applications such as jetties and boardwalks.

“We have a jetty plank and it’s better than wood in a salt water environment. We also do custom orders for shaped seats and there’s lots of potential in signs. Most of our business is with local government followed by parks and schools, but we’ve got plenty of space to move in the market and lots of untapped opportunities.”

The Silicone Silver Lining

From necessity came invention. After years of minimal income from the drought-ravaged horticulture industry, cotton producer Glen McDonald and his partners turned their attention to water management to earn a living.

Knowing every square metre of surface water loses eight litres a day to evaporation, McDonald and his partners set about minimising water loss from dams and reservoirs. The result is Aquatain, a silicone-based liquid that forms a protective layer on the water surface a single molecule thick. One molecule might sound small, but it prevents water evaporation to the tune of 50 percent.

“There were other products on the market, but in a powder form, not a liquid, preventing their use on large dams. Aquatain is much easier to handle and allows for aerial application to large bodies of water,” says McDonald, Director of Ultimate Products, Aquatain manufacturer.

With worldwide patents secured and distribution channels flowing to the agriculture and horticulture industries, McDonald soon found himself fielding calls from backyard swimming pool owners.

“We were reluctant because we’re not small pack-size operators – we supply large quantities. But they kept ringing, so we released a swimming pool pack. It did really well in Australia and we’re in negotiations for worldwide distribution. The likes of Walmart and Home Depot in the US are keen to talk,” he says.

“In Australia, we have one million backyard swimming pools each evaporating 100 litres a day during summer. In America, they have 8.5 million backyard swimming pools.”

The team is working on a new anti-mosquito version of the product called Aquatain AMF. Both products are safe for use in drinking water reservoirs and swimming pools, with National Safety Federation certification.

As the drought continues, we might be short on rain clouds but not on silver lining. Smart products like Aquatain offer new ways to save water. As McDonald says, “We had to make a change. If not, we’d be out of business.”

Electric Car Getz Safety Approval

There are electric vehicles and then there are safe electric vehicles. We applaud any effort to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but battery-powered cars often sacrificed safety for zero-emission mileage. Earlier this year, however, a new Hyundai Getz hit the market, complete with steel chassis, standard safety features and a battery-powered motor.

Ross Blade of Blade Electric Vehicles customises the four-door hatch to use an AC electric motor powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries, offering drivers what he calls ‘the perfect urban runabout’.

“We believe that safety shouldn’t be compromised. So we’ve gone for a retrofit with an established vehicle that has airbags, a steel chassis, a proven frame, and we still get 100km in an urban setting,” says Blade.

The ‘Blade Runner’ manages a nifty 0-100km in seven seconds and a top speed of 120km/h, while still offering the luxuries of power steering and air-conditioning. When the batteries run dry, the car simply plugs into a standard power point, recharging in eight hours at a cost of around $2.50 per 100kms.

Blade imports the batteries and AC drive systems to perform the retrofit, adding his unique battery management system, developed in conjunction with the University of Ballarat.

“The battery management system collects information from the battery and determines when the vehicle is full, when it’s empty, and also gathers other information to predict battery life and health,” says Blade.

With a price tag of $49,000, there are just three Blade Runners on the road, but Blade has high hopes for lower costs as biofuels remain unproven and demand increases for electric vehicles.

“Over the next 12 months, fuel prices will continue to go up. There’ll be increased interest in electric drive. There’ll be a small number of people who believe that safety is not an issue – that you can compromise safety – but we’re out to prove you can have an electric car and keep the safety as well.”

Smart Stations Save Energy

At home and at work, most of us try to be energy efficient. Don Sands, director of Queensland-based firm Synengco, worked at a power station, so he decided to make the entire plant more efficient.

As a power industry insider at a time of increasing environmental awareness, Sands spotted the need for a more holistic view of information capture and analysis and developed a unique software system, SentientSystem.

“In the late nineties, there was a push on environmental compliance combined with lower skill levels of employees. Traditionally there had been people with twenty years or more experience, but the workforce has become much more mobile. People work in one power station then go to a different job, taking their knowledge with them,” says Sands.

He built SentientSystem to capture the knowledge accumulated by a person on a particular job, and then pass on that knowledge to a new worker. SentientSystem uses this task-based information, combined with the plant’s operational data, to improve overall plant efficiency.

“We call it a knowledge automation process. The end result is a more efficient power station, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fuel consumption and water use. We also increase reliability, picking up problems before they result in plant failure. So we monitor the plant, the processes, and try to get more out of the plant through optimisation,” says Sands.

Currently operational in 12 power stations around Australia, Sands says Synengco is also making inroads internationally, with a target market of 6,000 power plants worldwide.

“We’ve had a couple of US R&D grants to sponsor our technology over there and we have a US partner. We’ve also just won a job in India through a company that provides control systems for power plants, and we’re looking at opportunities in China. It used to be a hard sell, but now the market is demanding this type of technology.”

Cool Antidote to Global Warming

There are countless ways to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions: changing light bulbs, switching to pedal power and buying energy-efficient appliances to name a few. The team at Cool Energy, however, can add an extra one to their list – capturing CO2 from natural gas streams in a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly manner.

The Perth-based company has developed a ground-breaking technique for ‘sweetening’ natural gas streams, lowering the CO2 component to the 2-4 percent required for natural gas pipelines, from a base of up to 70 percent. Cool Energy Managing Director Jessie Inman says the firm’s patented CryoCell technology is cheaper, easier and better than established CO2 removal methods.

“Traditionally there are two main ways to remove CO2. Ninety percent of the industry uses chemical and physical solvents, the rest use membranes. Both methods vent the CO2 to the atmosphere as greenhouse gas and would need high-cost energy for compression if the CO2 is to be sent for underground storage, particularly when solvents are used,” she says.

The CryoCell method applies temperature and pressure to the feed gas mixture to freeze the CO2 component, before melting it and separating it off as a liquid. The remaining sweetened gas is directed to a pipeline ready for market, while the liquid CO2 is immediately ready for geo-sequestration in deep underground reservoirs.

The environmental benefits are two-fold: lower costs make previously unexploited gas fields financially viable, while greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

“The industry developed low CO2 gas fields first, so a lot of fields now awaiting development are high CO2 fields,” says Inman.

Cool Energy operates a demonstration plant in the Perth Basin and Inman says the company has big plans for the next few years, with a new gas field in South Australia and potential projects in Indonesia and Europe.

Meanwhile, the Cool Energy team continues to search for new and improved ways to save the planet, with R&D projects for liquefied natural gas streams, as well as flue gas applications, effectively ‘cleaning’ the exhaust from power plants and industrial facilities. Watch this space.

Mother Nature’s Little Helper

It seems unlikely that a bunch of rocks could do so much for so many, but zeolites are the latest mineral response to a host of environmental pollution issues. Once removed from the ground and processed, these naturally-occurring aluminosilicates retain water and selectively bind nutrients and heavy metals, making them useful in filtration, aquaculture, animal husbandry, agriculture, horticulture and more.

But all zeolites were not created equal, and the Castle Mountain Zeolites seam in northern NSW is of particularly high purity. Castle Mountain Zeolites Technical Sales Manager Eric Ten Brink says the quality of the deposit makes it even more versatile.

“There are very few impurities in the deposit and it’s a very solid seam. We’ve also developed a unique processing technique, so we’re coming up with a very consistent and pure product – a differentiated product,” he says.

That product is used in water and swimming pool filters to remove metals, nutrients and odours. Ammonia bound in the zeolite structure during filtration can be used later as a slow-release fertiliser. Added to stock feed, Castle Mountain Zeolites have been shown to increase the growth and feed conversion rate in chickens and pigs. Once in the food chain, the positive effects continue, according to Ten Brink.

“It passes through the animal and becomes part of the manure, where it helps control odour. If that manure is then composted, it controls odour in the compost and helps retain water. Then, broadcast onto a vegetable garden or into a pasture as fertiliser, it goes back into the system. It stays in an inert form and functions all the way through.”

The high-grade Castle Mountain Zeolite also has potential for use in a variety of research projects.

“We’re involved in nuclear research and ethanol production research, for de-watering ethanol. It has even been used for waste disposal in places like Antarctica, binding effluent so water flows out but heavy metals and other waste products are held and won’t leach out over time.”

Mother Nature’s very own cleanser and deodorant: very impressive, for a bunch of rocks.

Waving It In

After the oil crisis of the 1970s, wave energy technology was touted as an alternative energy form with a big future. Large, platform-mounted power generation systems were modelled and built, but nature’s ferocity saw many literally sink to the ocean floor in the first storm.

Lessons were learnt and R&D continued, and today Perth based Carnegie Corporation is at the forefront of wave farm technology with CETO, a unique wave power converter.

“CETO is the only wave technology to be fully submerged and that doesn’t generate electricity offshore. It’s actually just a pumping technology. It has a buoy that’s moved up and down by the swell under the ocean surface, which drives a pump sending high-pressure sea water ashore. Onshore, the water spins a hydro-electric turbine,” says Carnegie Corp CEO Michael Ottaviano.

The pressurised sea water can be used for zero-emission power generation or desalinated via reverse osmosis to produce zero-emission fresh water, depending on demand.

With a test bed in Fremantle producing positive results, Ottaviano expects to roll out full-scale commercial wave farms, consisting of hundreds of CETO buoys, from 2010. Carnegie Corp will build, own and operate all southern hemisphere farms, while the world’s largest power company, EDF, has rights to the northern hemisphere.

“We expect hundreds of megawatts of installed capacity to be operational in the next decade. So, we’d sell to governments and power companies, and do bi-lateral off-takes to industrial users, for power and water.”

Unlike other forms of renewable energy, Ottaviano says wave power has the capacity to provide base load power.

“Wind resources produce energy 30-35 percent of the time, solar 25 percent. The best wave sites, from Brisbane right around the southern coast to Geraldton, offer 500,000 megawatts of recoverable wave energy. The total installed capacity of Australia is 50,000 megawatts. Ten times what we currently generate is available in the ocean.”

Source: Australian Anthill
Original Article: Australian Anthill Magazine
Author: Jodie O'Keeffe


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