Insights 2020: Adrian Minshull, Group Chairman and CEO of Hydroflux
1. What key trends will have an impact on the growth of your industry in 2020?
Locally, in Australia, the major impact on growth is the extended drought, followed closely by the growing social awareness of climate change. Many of Australia’s medium and large food processing facilities are located in regional and remote inland areas, significant distances from major cities. Drought and water scarcity in many of these areas are driving businesses to look more diligently at the risk of having limited or, in the worst case, no water supply to their factories in the near future. Water efficiency and recycling of wastewater are trending topics with industry leaders, particularly given that industry worldwide currently uses around 20% of all available clean water, which is predicted to rise to 40% by 2060. Modern industrial water recycling technology is well proven in Australia and it is without doubt that many large water-using businesses will be implementing systems to remove any water supply risks from their operations entirely in the very near future.
Climate change, renewables, rising gas and electricity costs are also stacking together to create the perfect storm for bioenergy. Bioenergy is both sustainable and carbon neutral. Industry and municipal sewage treatment plants are rapidly coming to the realisation that their wastewater and solid waste is a viable energy source. Technology is well advanced now to enable biogas to be easily and reliably used as an alternative to natural gas in boilers and in electricity generation plants. Even the sludge produced by wastewater plants can be economically dried and used as a sustainable solid fuel.
2. What are the biggest challenges facing your industry in 2020?
Panic and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) technology! We are already experiencing the beginnings of fear from medium- and large-scale food processing facilities in regional and remote inland areas wanting industrial water recycling plants delivered yesterday. As the drought continues and more large towns and small cities run dry, our ability to implement re-use schemes before factories start to suffer will be tested.
WWTP technology is advancing continually and WWTPs are becoming more efficient every year, but also more technically complex. Unless clients have skilled in-house specialist engineering staff designated to the WWTP, having long-term relationships combined with remote online support/control from the original WWTP designer/builders is becoming essential. Packaging specialist operational and maintenance support with chemical supply is technically and economically a massive OPEX win for industry.
5. What strategies are being implemented by your industry to improve resource recovery?
Education about what’s possible! The water industry is reasonably advanced in the area of power efficiency, and in the main, our municipal clients recognise that although power efficiency has a higher capital cost, it also offers a good long-term operational and sustainable impact. Bioenergy from both wastewater and waste biomass is slowly gaining commercial appeal. We need to demonstrate to both industrial and municipal customers that they can realise significant operational savings and, in some cases, become exporters of electricity by converting their waste organic resource to biogas. Back on the subject of water… with the extended drought showing little sign of abating, it is without doubt that water is becoming Australia’s most valuable resource. The technology to recover water via recycling is well-proven technology and although industries’ confidence in the processes and technology are increasing, it is far from the 100% where it needs to be. Again, more education about the possibilities is required.
6. How is your business planning to help Australia meet the 2030 climate change targets?
The Hydroflux Group catchphrase “Protecting Our Most Valuable Resource” is embedded throughout our short- and long-term business plans. Originally intended to just describe water as a valuable resource — and thus the missing “s” on the end of resource — the Group now recognises “resource” to mean water and sustainable bioenergy. Biogas production and utilisation is already contributing to Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission targets by providing both a renewable energy source and capturing emissions from organic and animal waste and landfill sites. Through both education and the implementation of practical and reliable technology, we believe Hydroflux is well placed to assist industry and municipalities make a serious contribution towards the necessary sustainability required to meet the 2030 climate change targets.
7. What are the three biggest threats facing your industry in 2020?
I am not sure there are any material threats to our industry, but there certainly are hindrances. The Australian power network has been caught out with a lack of planning for the rapid growth in solar, wind and biogas energy generation, and its follow-on effect on the existing unsustainable fossil fuel-based natural gas and coal generation plants and their respective distribution assets. This in turn is often leading to lengthy delays in assessments and approvals for grid-connected biogas power generation systems.
Power pricing uncertainty, both to measure biogas offset savings and feed-in tariff returns, needs to be resolved. Biogas energy’s ability to be produced during periods of higher demand means it can contribute to smooth peak supply issues, greatly offsetting our reliance on fossil fuels whilst remaining carbon neutral.
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