We are a privately owned Australian environmental company, with directors having decades of science, engineering and product development experience in the mining, automotive, consumer and environmental sectors.
We take practical and holistic approach to addressing water, waste and energy issues
Over the years, we had seen several biogas generator projects struggle with really smart engineers working on the job and some even eventually fail – consuming vast sums of money. The inherent variability of biogas from lower rate digesters can be difficult to master. This caused us to look for a more robust and reliable generation technology.
The “Inoplex Cogeneration Plant” was born in a close collaboration between the Kia-Ora Piggery in Yarrawalla Victoria, and Inoplex. Together, the strengths of an inverter based turbine generator were melded with the simplicity and low maintenance cost of a Ford engine.
The initial Cogeneration unit was pretty simple, the Ford engine runs faster to create higher voltage and the inverters read this as more power available so they produce more power. The control system was developed by an electrical specialist with decades of experience producing switch boards and control systems for renewable power projects, primary producers, aquatic centres and water treatment corporations. The control system was developed and evolved greatly as the biogas from the piggery changes season on season and with the varying feeds.
Yes, the original unit is still plugging away producing power for the piggery and hot water to warm the piglets on those cold Victorian days.
Varying quality biogas can be a problem in many applications. Some, have a secondary gas such as LPG available to start the generators and then swap over to biogas. This is pretty smart but has a cost and complexity. Over time, we refined our control algorithms to allow the generators to run on a very broad variety of biogas qualities, all the way down to 44 % methane, which some companies only flare as its too weak for normal biogas power generation. The key to running on variable and weak gas is those inverters. As long as the engine can start and run, we can pull power from the engine – even if its struggling on really poor gas.
The manufacture of the inverters we originally used was sold to a global electrical business who discontinued the particular inverters and halted any support for the products we already had purchased. Not wanting to be “stranded” again, we found the best inverter components we could find and developed our own power electronics – with components that could be swapped as required from several suppliers. This allows us to program exactly what our clients needed.
We found that many older farming sites had a poor power factor. This costs the operators significantly, so we sourced conventional power factor equipment to reduce the farmers power bills and make their farms compliant with the synchronising with the grid. Then we thought, power factor can be corrected with inverters, and we run inverters. Our power electronics engineer then set to work and added power factor correction software to the system. This saves our client the cost of adding separate equipment.
Next we found that many sites, industrial and agricultural, experience difficulty balancing power evenly over the three phases. So again we turned to our power electronics engineer and asked him to programme the inverters to look at the site power requirements and to create unequal amounts of power over the generators 3 phases, so that the grid we are synchronised with only sees three equally balanced phases and the site owner incurs no additional costs or complications.
Next, a client pointed out that our heat exchanger solution was pretty expensive and showed us much less expensive second hand units. While they were not manufactured to suit the corrosive exhaust gases we experience running on biogas, it did make us stop and re-think heat recovery from the exhausts. We now proudly manufacture out own exhaust heat exchangers in regional Victoria. These provide leading efficiency at a fraction of the price of the units we had previously purchased and they include silencing baffles to quieten the engine noise.
So, thats our story so far. We’d love to hear about your heat and power problems and challenges and work with you to resolve these with you…to continue our innovations..