The Cleaner Production Demonstration Project (the Project) is an initiative of Environment Australia -The Environment Protection Group (the EPG). The aim of the Project was to raise the awareness of Australian industry and actively promote cleaner production issues. This was to be achieved by conducting ten successful cleaner production demonstration projects in industry around Australia, documenting the benefits and experiences of the project, and publicising the results to wider industry. Dames & Moore, assisted by Energetics, were engaged as technical consultants on the project. The project commenced in June 1994, and ran for 27 months.
Nowra Chemical Manufacturers in Nowra, NSW was selected as one of the ten companies to participate in the Project. This case study report presents a record of the progress of the Nowra Chemicals project, from initial meeting to project completion, and details the results of the Project any problems or lessons which may been encountered. The case study demonstrates the application of Cleaner Production to the chemical manufacturing industry.
Nowra Chemical Manufacturers specialise in the production of a wide range of chemicals, including cleaning chemicals, flocculants and other specialised chemicals. The companyÕs ability and commitment to their clients to produce this vast number of chemicals has set the operating methodology over the years.
Nowra Chemicals have approximately 24 vessels in which they manufacture all their products via batch operations. After completion of the batch and transferring the product to containers, the vessels are opened to drain, and washed out. Mixing of the various washouts results in the formation of a chemical sludge. Treatment and handling of the sludge has grown to become a highly time consuming exercise as the volume of sludge generated has increased over the years with the number of chemicals being produced.
The sludge cannot be handled by the Council waste water treatment plant, and has to be separated, dried and disposed to landfill as solid waste. Nowra Chemicals have committed to minimising the solid waste problem through the Cleaner Production Project.
The main focus of the project was the reduction of the volume of sludge produced. The possibility of separating the effluent streams to avoid mixing of the products was determined by analysis of products. The trial of effluent mixing indicated that the effluent can be classified into three main groups. Two of these groups would ideally eliminate any sludge formation and the third contained all other waste products. Based on the classification of the products, suitable pipework and additional holding tanks were installed.
The separation of effluent streams led to:
- a decrease in the amount of sludge produced of 16.5 tonnes / year;
- a decrease in the quantity of wastewater produced by 832 kL/year; and
- an increase in productivity.
Total capital costs to implement the project were $25,000, which the company expects to recover in three years (not including the additional productivity savings made in personnel time.).
The Cleaner Production Demonstration Project has shown in this case study that it is often simpler and more effective to solve a problem where it is produced rather than treating it at the end point. The process modifications and new methodology has proven to be effective for this project.