Forward thinking with FO-RO funding

 A new emerging wastewater treatment technology will be trialed in Tamworth thanks to $136,800 in funding from the New South Wales Government. The forward osmosis – reverse osmosis (FO-RO) treatment system trial will take place at Tamworth Regional Council’s Westdale Wastewater Treatment Plant and will include testing of process water from a local abattoir.

The use of this new technology may enhance the opportunities for management and recycling of process water streams from industry, as well as from treated sewage effluent. This would reduce large industry’s reliance on town water supplies giving regions like Tamworth greater opportunity to welcome more of these businesses to their area.

Member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson said, this is tremendous news for Tamworth, placing it at the forefront of technology for the treatment of wastewater.

“The recent severe drought has sharpened our focus on the need to harness world’s best practice to conserve water and use it wisely to meet the needs of residents and industry, including agriculture.

“The utilisation of existing infrastructure such as the Tamworth Regional Council’s Westdale Wastewater Treatment Plant in collaboration with a local abattoir is a perfect fit for this important research,” Mr Anderson said.

FO-RO could also provide many benefits for Council with its ability to reduce the reject wastewater stream which in turn will reduce costs associated with handling such water.

Mayor Col Murray said, “our region knows deeply the importance of effectively using every drop of water available.

“To have our plant be chosen as a pilot trial site is a privilege and is another clear demonstration of how Tamworth is an emerging leader in innovation”.

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, will run the trial with Hunter H2O working as the trial facilitator and technical adviser.

What is FO-RO?

Forward osmosis (FO) is an emerging water treatment technology that involves the separation and removal of impurities from water by allowing clean water to pass through a semipermeable membrane under ambient pressure and temperature. FO uses the concentration gradient as the mechanism to draw clean water through the membrane. By comparison, reverse osmosis (RO) achieves this through the application of significant pressure (energy) to force clean water through the membrane.

A combined FO-RO system has several advantages over standalone RO systems that make it potentially commercially attractive. These include the following:

  • FO does not rely on the external hydraulic pressure for operation and hence exhibits low energy consumption for that part of the process;
  • FO has lower membrane fouling propensity as the solids are not compressed against the membrane. The FO acts as a pre-treatment barrier for the RO treatment process. This can significantly reduce associated capital and operating costs of alternative treatment barriers required for the conventional RO process i.e. chemical addition, ultra-filtration etc.;
  • The system also reduces the maintenance costs and associated potential environmental and safety risks of membrane descaling processes associated with RO treatment systems;
  • The integrated FO-RO process can greatly reduce the reject wastewater stream with very high product water recovery. This subsequently minimises the costs associated with handling the reject wastewater stream.

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