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Dealing with Organic Wastes and Byproducts – One Economic and Environmentally Sound Solution


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Author Morton A J, Keet B A, Waid J S


The Gippsland Basin is one of Australia’s most important producers of petroleum products. An inevitable byproduct of the production, refinement and transport of the millions of barrels of oil is thousands of tonnes of waste. These wastes are generated from the wellhead through to the petrol bowser and range from oily brines and coal tars to oil and petrol contaminated soils. The vast majority of these wastes are of a relatively low toxicity and most importantly are carbon-based and biodegradable. Current disposal practices tend to ignore the latter characteristic and inappropriate and/or expensive waste disposal solutions such as landfilling (tipping), incineration or ocean outfalls are the result. A very cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative is land treatment of such wastes. Landfarming, as it is called, has been successfully practiced in Europe for over a decade. Essential features of the system are: • Application of a predetermined quantity of biodegradable waste in liquid, sludge or highly contaminated soil form, to pre-ploughed soil with concurrent addition of nutrients (N, P and trace elements) and lime to encourage bacterial activity. • Harmless bacteria already present within the soil break down the carbon-based compounds into carbon dioxide, water and waste heat, WHILE concurrently generating new cells. The breakdown occurs over a period of weeks to months and continues with time with the extremely low levels of the more difficult waste types being the last to disappear. • Further waste is applied to the soil at regular intervals. The treatment area may be dedicated to landfarming or may be used alternatively for agricultural purposes. Application rates vary but may be as high as 800 tonnes per hectare per year for wastes such as refinery sludges.