Home' Curtin University : Curtin Edge of Tomorrow Contents DOING MORE WITH LESS
The SEG at Curtin University has been involved in energy
efficiency and industrial analysis for just over 15 years. It’s
been a global leader in an emerging area of sustainability
assessment known as industrial ecology, which looks at
industrial areas as ‘ecosystems’ that can develop productive
exchanges of resources.
Associate Professor Michele Rosano is SEG’s Director and
a resource economist who has written extensively on sustainability
metrics, charting the life cycles of industrial components, carbon
emission reduction and industrial waste management. They’re
part of a process known as industrial symbiosis – the development
of a system for neighbouring industries to share resources,
energies and by-products. “It’s all about designing better
industrial systems, and doing more with less,” Rosano says.
Curtin and SEG have been involved in research supported by
the Australian’s Government’s Cooperative Research Centres
Program to develop sustainable technologies and systems for
the mineral processing industry at the Kwinana Industrial Area,
an 8 km coastal industrial strip about 40 km south of Perth. The
biggest concentration of heavy industries in Western Australia,
Kwinana includes oil, alumina and nickel refineries, cement
manufacturing, chemical and fertiliser plants, water treatment
utilities and a power station that uses coal, oil and natural gas.
Rosano says two decades of research undertaken by
Curtin at Kwinana is now recognised as one of the world’s
largest and most successful industrial ecology projects. It has
created 49 industrial symbiosis projects, ranging from shared
use of energy and water to recovery and reuse of previously
“These are huge and complex projects which have produced
substantial environmental and economic benefits,” she says.
“Kwinana is now seen as a global benchmark for the way in
which industries can work together to reduce their footprint.”
An example of industrial synergies is waste hydrochloric acid
from minerals processing being reprocessed by a neighbouring
chemical plant for reuse in rutile quartz processing. The industrial
ecology researchers looked at ways to reuse a stockpile of more
than 1.3 million tonnes of gypsum, which is a waste product from
the manufacture of phosphate fertiliser and livestock feeds. The
gypsum waste is used by Alcoa’s alumina refinery at Kwinana
to improve soil stability and plant growth in its residue areas.
The BP oil refinery at Kwinana also provides hydrogen
to fuel Perth’s hydrogen fuel-cell buses. The hydrogen is
produced by BP as a by-product from its oil refinery and
is piped to an industrial gas facility that separates, cleans
and pressurises it. The hydrogen is then trucked to the bus
depot’s refuelling station in Perth.
Rosano says 21st century industries “are serious about
sustainability” because of looming future shortages of many
raw materials, and also because research has demonstrated
there are social, economic and environmental benefits to
reducing greenhouse emissions.
“There is a critical need for industrial ecology, and that’s
why we choose to focus on it,” she says. “It’s critical research
that will be needed to save and protect many areas of the
global economy in future decades.” – Rosslyn Beeby n
Research by Professor Peter Teunissen and Dr Dennis Odijk
at Curtin’s Department of Spatial Sciences was the first study
in Australia to integrate next generation satellite navigation
systems with the commonly used and well-established
Global Positioning System (GPS) launched by the United
States in the 1990s.
Odijk says a number of new systems are being developed in
China, Russia, Europe, Japan, and India, and it’s essential they
can interact successfully. These new Global Navigation Satellite
Systems (GNSS) will improve the accuracy and availability
of location data, which will in turn improve land surveying
for locating mining operations and renewable energy plants.
“The new systems have an extended operational range,
higher power and better modulation. They are more robust
and better able to deal with challenging situations like
providing real-time data to respond to bushfires and other
emergencies,” says Odijk.
“When these GNSS systems begin operating over the
next couple of years, they will use a more diverse system
of satellites than the traditional GPS system. The challenge
will be to ensure all these systems can link together.”
Integrating these systems will increase the availability of
data, “particularly when the signals from one system might
be blocked in places like open-pit mines or urban canyons
– narrow city streets with high buildings on both sides.”
Teunissen and Odijk’s research on integrating the GNSS
involves dealing with the complex challenges of comparing
estimated positions from various satellites, as well as
inter-system biases, and developing algorithms. The project
is funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial
Information, and includes China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite
System, which is now operating across the Asia-Pacific region.
Science and Engineering research at Curtin University
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