And the Industrial Global Water Award goes to …>>>>

QGC Northern Water Treatment Plant Australia


Something to spout about: QGC’s Northern Water Treatment Plant can take up to 100 million litres of brine a day, piped from the coal-seam-gas fields of Queensland and turn it into water that’s suitable for irrigation or industrial purposes in this rainfall-challenged region. Now the 2016 Global Water Awards has recognised the performance and innovative excellence of QGC’s water-recycling efforts in naming the Northern plant Industrial Water Project of the Year.

Water flowed freely to celebrate the win announced by Felipe Calderón, chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, in the doubly dry city of Abu Dhabi this April. The prestigious awards, inaugurated in 2006, recognise initiatives that “are moving the industry forward through improved operating performance, innovative technology adoption and sustainable financial models”.

Commissioned in May 2015, the $550 million Northern Water Treatment project was delivered by an alliance between GE and Laing O’Rourke Australia. To satisfy the most stringent environmental regulations, it pumps the effluent of thousands of coal-seam-gas wells through four phases of GE advanced water-treatment technologies; the water running ever sweeter and clearer from its saline beginnings as it passes through ZeeWeed submerged ultrafiltration, ion-exchange, three-stage reverse osmosis (RO) and brine concentration.

“The reverse osmosis produces clean water, or permeate, but in order to maximise the recovery of water, the QGC plant includes brine concentrators,” says Mike Rees, regional commercial leader, GE Power & Water. Reverse osmosis results in some 90% recovery of clean water from the original brine; the concentrators increase that flow to around 97%.

“This is certainly water that would not otherwise be available,” says Rees of the output of three variously sized plants in the region, all constructed by QGC (part of the BG Group which was recently acquired by Royal Dutch Shell). “There are a number of agricultural enterprises which are taking full advantage of a more certain, constant supply of water.”

While the processes were designed to maximise water delivery, construction of the plant components was planned to minimise disruption to roads and communities in this remote region—it was largely carried out offsite. The pipe racks were designed to enable a “plug and play” installation sequence before being brought to the site by truck in carefully timed transport envelopes. The 120-tonne concentrators were manufactured in New Zealand, shipped “across the ditch” to Queensland, trucked overland, and installed using one of the largest mobile cranes in Australia.

QGC and other coal-seam-gas companies in the region supply the three massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants on Curtis Island just off Gladstone on the Queensland coast. This multibillion-dollar venture to produce LNG from coal-seam gas is a world first. Similarly, says Rees, “The treatment of coal-seam-gas-produced water on this large a scale is, we’re proud to say, also a world first.”

He says one of the major challenges in processing water produced in wells by CSG drilling is that unlike seawater or brackish water which is characterised by relatively consistent salt content, CSG water varies widely. “Over the life of the whole CSG-to-LNG project, they’ll be drilling thousands of wells in different gas fields, and from well to well the water volume and water quality can vary significantly. This plant needed to be capable of handling a wide range of  of potential raw water quality and flow rates—it had to have enough flexibility to produce water of the required standard, no matter what the input, day in, day out.”

The Global Water Awards 2016 acknowledged public debate in Australia over coal-seam-gas produced water and concluded: “A practical, pragmatic solution such as this cuts through the rhetoric to the heart of the problem, enhancing QGC’s social licence to operate through its emphasis on responsible treatment and reuse.”

Top photo: QGC’s $550 million commitment to providing clean water from coal-seam gas mining has scored a 2016 Global Water Award: Industrial Water Project of the Year.


Henry Sapiecha


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