Managing Director of OPEC Systems Peter Murphy announces a new technology aimed at removing PFAS contamination from affected sites across the nation.
Managing Director of OPEC Systems Peter Murphy announces a new technology aimed at removing PFAS contamination from affected sites across the nation. Samantha Poate

Company says it has the answer to chemical contamination

A LENNOX Head based company has announced new technology designed to combat PFAS contamination in Australia.

PFAS (Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) is a group of manufactured chemicals used since the 1950s to make products that resist heat, stains, oil/grease and water.

The compounds were used in fire fighting foams up until 2004, and in various other applications such as non-stick cookware, stain protection, and food packaging.

Concern has been raised over the presence of PFAS compounds as they do not break down in the environment and can remain in the body for prolonged periods of time - with possible links to serious disease.

OPEC Systems has been working on their extracting technology for two and a half years within the defence space and say they are now ready to open it up commercially.

Managing Director of OPEC Systems Peter Murphy said the process they use is referred to as Downhole Foam Fractionation (DFF).

However Mr Murphy assures that, despite the name, the new system is not related to CSG extraction.

"Our process has zero to do with that (CSG) and in fact I might change the name," Mr Murphy said.

"It was something we didn't think about as scientists we just applied a literal terminology to what it was.

"The fracking is what we do to the PFAS compounds in the water column of a ground water well.

"It is a totally different process to fracking which is actually injecting under pressure into the rock strata to try and release natural gases."

The technology isolates and removes problematic PFAS from affected sites, with testing results showing removal of more than 99% of contaminants within minutes.

There are more than 70 identified contaminated sites around Australia.

DFF involves the installation of strategically positioned ground-water wells at affected sites, and the creation of bubble columns within the wells which 'foam out' the PFAS compounds.

The system collects the problematic contaminants within the foam, and a foam harvesting system is used to remove the PFAS-rich concentrate from the wells, where it is further treated before being taken offsite and destroyed.

"It's like whacking too much dish washing detergent in your sink and you start shacking it up and it keeps going and going, it's a bit like that under the ground," Mr Murphy said.

OPEC systems hopes to roll out the system into the broader market, targeting airports, industrial sites and regional and metropolitan fire-fighting training areas because they were having the same problem with run-off contamination.

"We feel like we are in a position now where we've got enough back up, put our money where our mouth is and so we are just seeing where we go from here," Mr Murphy said.

However, Mr Murphy said there are a few hurdles in which the project needs to get through before it can be used commercially.

"There is a little bit of frustration I suppose in terms of the speed and decisiveness in which actions are being taken," Mr Murphy said.

"These aren't high cost solutions, they aren't incredibly complex technologies or solutions but there is just so much politics involved now that it almost seems frozen in terms of decisions getting made."

"The PFAS task force has been formed now which incorporates the Department of Agriculture, the EPA, the Defence Force, a number of finance and cabinet and a number of other players, so when things involve multiple departments it becomes a real political quagmire and that the sense we have in the industry."

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