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OPEC Systems engaged by defence to install PFAS removal technology at Oakey, Qld



OPEC Systems has constructed a waste water treatment plant at the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland to remove PFAS compounds from contaminated groundwater.

The waste water treatment plant commenced operations in April 2019 and will use OPEC’s Surface Active Foam Fractionation (SAFF) technology to process up to 250,000 litres of PFAS contaminated groundwater per day. PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are organic pollutants of concern found principally in a now discontinued formulation of fire fighting foam. SAFF technology has been methodically developed and independently tested by NATA laboratories and PFAS experts over several years. The system, which comprises a combination of treatment, water polishing and waste minimisation stages, can remediate PFAS contaminated water to below drinking water guidelines.

OPEC Systems was one of just three companies selected by the Department of Defence to build a full-scale waste water treatment plant to extract PFAS from contaminated groundwater.

“PFAS remediation technology is in its infancy worldwide, and we know there is intense global interest in what the Australian Department of Defence is doing with its PFAS remediation program,” said OPEC Systems Managing Director, Pete Murphy. SAFF technology is founded on the principles of green chemistry, to create a system which produces minimal waste with zero environmental harm. The technology leverages the natural physiochemistry of PFAS molecules to create a system which is efficient, sustainable and fast in comparison to other technologies.

The two aspects of SAFF technology that distinguish it from other approaches are the use of foam fractionation, which exploits the inherent predisposition of PFAS compounds to adhere to specifically sized micro bubbles; and the introduction of a patented vacuum extraction system, which harvests the vast majority of foaming PFAS compounds from the surface of the foam fractionator prior to applying ionic exchange polishing resins.

The technology has demonstrated it can effectively remove over 99 per cent of longer chain PFAS molecules within 2-3 minutes, with longer processing times and supplementary polishing systems allowing the restoration of PFAS contaminated water to below new Australian drinking water guidelines.

SAFF is a multi-stage process which broadly includes:

  • pre-treatment – the installation of groundwater extraction wells, adjustment of water chemistry to optimise PFAS extraction efficiencies and the removal of cross contaminants and dissolved and suspended solids;
  • a multi-stage, continuous flow, foam fractionation procedure to rapidly remove 99 per cent of target PFAS contaminants from the influent;
  • application of vacuum and solar heat processes to create a PFAS rich hyper-concentrate semi-solid;
  • use of final polishing technologies to remove the remaining estimated one per cent of PFAS in the treated water;
  • safe return of clean water to the environment following final analysis.

Waste minimisation practices are incorporated on site through each of the PFAS treatment stages to help achieve zero waste objectives. SAFF technology incorporates solar technology to drive the system efficiency, minimise waste and reduce energy consumption. SAFF is a modular and expandable technology which can continuously treat large water volumes using minimal energy or additives. It has the capability to treat systems varying in size from 500 litres per hour to 100,000 litres per hour, or more if required.

The waste water treatment plant will operate for a 30-month trial period.

For more information please contact Michelle Mahon.

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