BeneTerra — greener technology to dry landfill runoff

When research and development bites into the cash flow and you are almost there, a government grant can help you power on. BeneTerra (BT) CEO, Tony Stapleton explains.

Where are you based?

We are a Brisbane company with a research and engineering office in Toowoomba and a mechanical workshop in Rockhampton.

How did you begin?

BT has been dealing with landfill and wastewater for the resources sector since 2010. The team has a lot of engineering and technical expertise, so we always try new and better ways to do the job.

We are experts in dealing with difficult-to-treat wastewater.

What did you set out to do?

We wanted to get rid of the moisture in landfill, onsite.

We planned to use biogas generated by the landfill, to speed up a process that occurs naturally and treat the potentially toxic elements such as heavy metals. This would be better for the environment, save on haulage or disposal costs, and take some pressure off sewerage treatment plants.

If we could develop a way to do it, prove the process to both the customers and the environmental regulators, then we could take on more customers in the waste management and recycling industries.

There are roughly 1,000 landfills in Australia and most have leachate (liquid that drains from landfill) management issues.

How does it work?

Our technology — the BeneVap BV150 — is installed at the base of the landfill. It uses free energy generated by the landfill to remove leachate permanently, and all onsite.

Simply put, BV150 system uses extremely hot air to evaporate wastewater that is captured in special sumps at the bottom of the landfills.

We use waste gas that is usually flared or burnt off at landfills, to remove more than 90 per cent of the leachate.

It can run on diesel or even recycled or waste oil when landfill gas is not available.

The water turns into a vapour and carbon dioxide gas — which are natural — and any solid material is returned to the landfill for disposal.

It is a simple, one-step process that requires no pre-treatment.

It took us two years and more than $2 million in research and development. But we have cracked it. It is a significant improvement on current practices anywhere. As far as we are aware, we are the first to do this.

Our technology is great for landfills in high rainfall areas and landfills not connected to sewer or trade waste.

What is the benefit?

Depending on the distance travelled, landfills that transport leachate off-site can pay between 12 cents to 40 cents a litre, some more than that. The BV150 drops the treatment cost to two to four cents a litre.

The BV150 evaporates approximately 30,000 litres a day. This saves the local council or other landfill operator about $4,000 a day in leachate disposal costs.

When rain washes through decomposing waste in landfill, the dissolved solids, organics and heavy metals form a toxic soup or leachate.

If left untreated, it could be a threat to surface water and groundwater. This is a real concern if you get a major rainfall event and have an overflow problem.

Our technology cleanses the leachate, removing many of its undesirable components. Toxic components become inert and are not flushed out to sea via the sewage treatment process.

We’re cutting the amount of wastewater that is kept in holding ponds or needs sewage treatment.

How has Advance Queensland funding helped?

The research and development bit into our cash reserves, so the Ignite Ideas grant was timely. We needed it to demonstrate the effectiveness of our technology to major customers and to commercialise it.

The funding allowed us to field test the BV150 process at the Swanbank landfill site near Ipswich.

This test site provided the proof we needed to set up a commercial deal. We created three new jobs with the Swanbank trial.

Importantly, the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science has allowed Swanbank to permanently operate the BV150 for demonstrations — showing other landfills they can follow suit.

The groundwork done in south-east Queensland, particularly the real-life application, has opened doors for us.

It allowed us to engage with more local councils and waste management operators in New Zealand and the United States, and exhibit at trade shows.

What is next for your business?

Installing our technology on more sites. We are looking to step up production to 20 units a year.

We are targeting landfills operated by local councils. In Queensland, more than 75 per cent of these are in regional areas.

As our product takes off, our Toowoomba workshop will need more tradespeople and we will establish new maintenance service depots around the state. We will need more technical and support staff for these.

We have met with the largest waste management and landfill operators in the USA and Europe and a New Zealand company has flagged its interest.

Over the next three years, we plan to open new offices and have BV150 technology installed in new locations around the globe.

Subscribe to the Advance Queensland eNewsletter to stay up to date with the latest in Queensland innovation news and to find more opportunities to collaborate with Queensland Government.