South East Water has teamed up again with RMIT University, Intelligent Water Networks, Greater Western Water and Barwon Water to progress trials of an innovative pyrolysis technology (PYROCO) as part of the second phase of a $1 million Biosolids to Biochar project.

The project uses next generation pyrolysis technology to transform biosolids generated from wastewater treatment plants into biochar, a safe and nutrient-rich material sought after by the agriculture industry to regenerate soils. It can also be used in construction, and further used to develop advanced carbon materials. Biochar also stores carbon, preventing it from being released into the environment. 

The project team welcomed Member for Melton, Steve McGhie MP to Greater Western Water’s Melton Recycled Water Plant last week to view the purpose-built demonstration unit and showcase the technology and its benefits. 

“This project demonstrates how industry and science can work together to deliver great outcomes for both our environment and our economy. Biochar is an exciting product that has great potential for both our farmers and our construction industries, and I’m excited to see the outcomes of the trial.”
Member for Melton, Steve McGhie

Above: L-R: Intelligent Water Networks Program Director, Jason Cotton; Member for Melton, Steve McGhie

The current Phase 2 trials follow successful Phase 1 trials in 2021 which demonstrated removal of pathogens, contaminants, and microplastics, and seeks to validate these results at a greater scale using the biosolids from various water authorities as well as biomass and food and organic waste. 

South East Water General Manager Research, Innovation and Commercialisation, Dan Sullivan said the project could potentially address the water industry’s challenge of biosolids disposal while removing carbon from the atmosphere and progress towards our net-zero carbon pledge.

“We believe that this exciting technology has the potential to transform by-products of the wastewater process into a valuable resource, in a way that is the most carbon-efficient while maximising the quality of the biochar. In this Phase 2 trial, we’re seeking to validate assumptions that will give us the confidence to scale up to a fully operational plant to manage our biosolids challenge,” Dan said. 

He also highlighted the importance of working together with industry peers to drive innovation in the water sector and address shared challenges like reducing waste, creating circular economies in water, and protecting our environment.   

“This project highlights the importance of collaborating with industry and research partners. When we coordinate our respective knowledge, expertise and resources towards a common goal, we can accelerate the adoption of new technologies that can transform the way the water industry operates” 
South East Water General Manager Research, Innovation and Commercialisation, Dan Sullivan

The Biosolids to Biochar project is being delivered in partnership with RMIT University, Intelligent Water Networks, South-East Water, Greater Western Water and Barwon Water with a $100,000 investment by the Labor Government.  

Above: Phase 2 PYROCO Mark 2 Pilot Plant

Dr Savan Patel, Post Doctoral Research Assistant, RMIT 

Above: Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) Biochar to Biosolids

Top image: 
L-R: Greater Western Water Integrated Planner, Mark Langley; Barwon Water Managing Director, Shaun Cumming; General Manager Operations and Delivery Solutions Greater Western Water, Jodie Hallam; Intelligent Water Networks Program Director, Jason Cotton; South East Water General Manager Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Daniel Sullivan; Member for Melton, Steve McGhie; South East Water Research and Development Manager, David Bergmann; South East Water Managing Director, Lara Olsen; Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Capability RMIT University, Professor Swee Mak;  John Winter, Roundhill Engineering; South East Water Senior Research Scientist, Aravind Surapaneni; South East Water Group Manager Strategy and Stakeholder, Karen Lau; Deputy Director ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia's Biosolids at RMIT, Professor Kalpit Shah.

For further information or enquiries

Contact us at

More news