1 Bligh Street, where Acquacell installed one of Australia’s first blackwater treatment plants in a high rise building

10 March 2014 — Australian company Aquacell, which supplied a blackwater recycling system to Sydney’s 1 Bligh Street, is finding a market niche in the  United States and Dubai.

In Australia, Aquacell was awarded the first combined private network and retailer’s water recycling licence in New South Wales for the 1 Bligh Street development and in the process, with the building understood to be Sydney’s first high-rise commercial office tower to incorporate blackwater recycling technology.

Similar projects include at Star Casino, Sydney; the ANU Colleges of Science precinct, Blacktown Workers Club, 180 Anne Street, Brisbane; 111 Eagle Street, Brisbane; King George Central, Brisbane, and QUT Gardens Point Campus.

In the US, the company is installing a blackwater recycling and stormwater treatment plant for the new headquarters of one of the country’s largest banks. Aquacell managing director Colin Fisher told The Fifth Estate the project was the result of four years laying groundwork in the US, and significant re-engineering of the technology to meet standards across multiple US authorities.

“Here in Australia we deliver the plants as a design and construct; it is different in the States, as each state has its own local license requirements, so we put a lot of effort into engineering the technology so it can be installed by local [US-based] people,” Mr Fisher said.

Aquacell entered into an agreement with a Kentucky based business, the Phoenix Process Equipment Company, several years ago to pursue opportunities in the US market. This has been a successful relationship, with Phoenix pursuing contracts and Aquacell maintaining control of all intellectual property and keeping the manufacture of the actual recycling technology here in Australia. In January of this year, one of Aquacell’s Sydney staff was deployed to the USA to supervise commissioning of the first completed project.

Colin Fisher

There will be more to come, according to Mr Fisher, with the drought-stricken west coast of California showing a strong interest in the technology.

“We are working with the design team at the moment on a mixed-use commercial and residential project in San Francisco,” Mr Fisher said.

He pointed out that given the long lead time between initial contracts at the building design stage through to final installation commissioning – a period that can amount to as much as three years – patience and tenacity have been essential.

Next month Mr Fisher will be travelling to Dubai as part of an Austrade delegation, where he will present an address at WETEX, an international water, energy, technology and environment exhibition. While there, he will also open the new Aquacell MENA office in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which will be used as a springboard for projects across the Middle East and North Africa.

“What we realise is we have [water recycling technology] which is reliable and proven in Australia, so we are taking it to one region at a time,” Mr Fisher said.

“There has been tremendous interest in our technology from Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Palestine and Tunisia, among others.”

The company, which commenced operations in 1996, has 15 full-time staff includes engineers, trades professionals, project managers, business development and administration personnel, with the number of staff likely to increase as the company undertakes a greater number of projects both in Australia and the US, and the soon-to-be-opened Abu Dhabi offices.

Currently it is installing systems for a range of projects including Kurrajong, an over-50s residential development and the Green Skills centre at Perth’s Central Institute of Training, and is in the planning and design stages for Narara Eco Village on the central coast, a development that aims to be completely self-reliant for water and sewerage.