Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 - UniQuest Pty Limited
A system that offers water utilities a cheaper way to get rid of sewer odours and stop the corrosion that can lead to sewers collapsing and causing sinkholes, is one of the innovative business concepts in the running to win $100,000 in The University of Queensland (UQ) Business School 2011 Enterprize competition.

Brisbane-based Cloevis aims to tackle the twin problems of smell and corroding concrete sewer pipes with a patented mix of chemicals that kill the bacteria that trigger the problems. These bacteria turn dissolved sulphates in wastewater into hydrogen sulphide (which gives off a foul, ‘rotten egg’ smell) and then into corrosive sulphuric acid.

Most of the chemicals on the market, used by water and municipal authorities around the world, attempt to manage the hydrogen sulphide, not kill the bacteria responsible for it.

Cloevis believes its patented chemical mix, integrated with a dosing optimisation software tool, will cut water authorities’ operating costs by up to 50 per cent. Authorities currently spend between 50c and $1.50 per resident each year just on chemicals to prevent sewer corrosion and odours.

Academic Dean and Head of the UQ Business School, Professor Iain Watson, said UQBS was proud to support entrepreneurial ideas like Cloevis.

“Cloevis is tackling major problems associated with sewers through an innovative approach. Like the other finalists, the Cloevis developers have the potential to make their mark commercially,’’ Professor Watson said.

The Cloevis technology has been developed at UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC). Its genesis was an $11 million research program into current methods of controlling sulphide odours and corrosion, funded by nine Australian water utilities, Water Quality Research Australia, CH2M Hill and the Australian Research Council.

The technology’s commercialisation is now being led by UniQuest.

UniQuest Commercialisation Associate, Dr Tony Keating, said: “The researchers were looking at all these existing ways and found that it’s ad hoc as to which chemicals are used, and how much is used. They found there is significant overdosing, as authorities want to be on the safe side.

“The researchers thought, ‘well, here’s a way of doing this better’. The Cloevis chemicals break down the cell walls of the bacteria and kill them. They are simple, inexpensive chemicals, in good supply, and by killing the bugs, they stop the hydrogen sulphide from forming and causing a problem.

“Their other advantage is that you don’t need as much of them. Dosing with these new chemicals would be every week or so, whereas current dosing is done 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means substantial savings for authorities in their chemical costs.”

Sewer corrosion is a major headache for water authorities, with frequent reports of sinkholes appearing after pipe leaks and collapses. In the US, the cost of sewer corrosion (including chemical dosing and infrastructure repair and replacement) is estimated to be $US13.75 billion a year.

“When engineers designed sewer systems, they thought they would last about 100 years,” Dr Keating said. “But because of corrosion, they are finding that some of the newer ones in the US are only lasting 10 years.’’

Cloevis’s chemical mix would be integrated with SeweX, a software tool developed by AWMC since 2003, which predicts sulphide formation and transfer in the sewer network, allowing authorities to optimise their chemical dosing regimens. The SeweX model has been used by five Australian water utilities in corrosion and odour management in their sewers, with the Gold Coast reporting it had already generated savings of $1.3 million.

Following successful laboratory trials and preliminary field trials of the Cloevis chemical mix, discussions are now underway with Australian and overseas water utilities to run commercial-scale field trials.

The UQ Business School Enterprize 2011 finalists were chosen from a record number of entries received for the competition, which is now in its 11th year.

The finalists will be interviewed by an expert judging panel on September 16 and then have their final chance to impress the judges at a “Pitch Day’’ in October. The winner will be announced at the pitch day, which will be attended by venture capitalists and angel investors. For more information, visit www.business.uq.edu.au/enterprize

For media inquiries, please contact:

Colleen Clur, Niche Consultants on phone (07) 3368 1230 or mobile 0418 253 340

Jess Staats, UQ Business School on phone (07) 3346 3296 or 0418 755 622

Contact Profile

Dr Tony Keating, UniQuest

P: 0430 180 659
W: www.uniquest.com.au

Keywords

sewer odours,corrosion, sewers collapsing, sinkholes

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