THE profile of Lennox Head based company OPEC Systems is gathering serious momentum on the world stage after winning several awards.
OPEC Systems was awarded the ‘Australian Advanced Manufacturing’ Award, before taking out the overall 2019 ‘Australian Technology Company of the Year’ award for its innovation in environmental remediation at the Australian Technologies Competition.
This award comes hot on the heels of their award as ‘Defence Innovator of the Year’ at the Australian Defence Industry Awards earlier in October.
The awards recognised their pioneering work in developing technologies to successfully remediate PFAS from groundwater.
OPEC Systems has been recognised as the ‘Australian Technology Company of the Year’ for its innovation in environmental remediation at the Australian Technologies Competition.
Managing Director, Pete Murphy, said “OPEC Systems is an overnight success that’s been twenty years in the making”.
“While we have been working on this technology for several years, it’s an interesting alignment that we were recognised for our innovation in PFAS remediation on the same day that the largest class action in Australia’s history for PFAS contamination was announced,” he said.
Mr Murphy said he has strong ties with the Northern Rivers.
“I first moved to the area when I was 18 years old in 1985 to go to University to study environmental science in Lismore back when it was NRCAE,” he said.
“I stayed until 1992 before moving down to Sydney with my then girlfriend/now wife Kath – a Lismore local.
“After our three kids were born, and before our eldest was school age, we decided in 2004 to move back to the North Coast to raise our kids and we’ve lived in Tintenbar since then.”
The entrepreneur said setting up his company’s headquarters in Lennox Head was first lifestyle choice.
“But it turned out to be a great business choice as well,” he added.
“Since moving, the company has grown from four staff in a small warehouse in Botany (Sydney) to a company of nearly 100 staff with eight Australian offices, plus a UK-based office and plans to establish a US office in the coming months.”
OPEC’s Surface Active Foam Fractionation technology (SAFF) is a game changer for PFAS remediation and has been acclaimed for its all-round global potential by award organisers.
“PFAS contamination is a problem worldwide, but Australia has emerged as a leader in this space, and the rest of the world is looking on with interest,” he said.
“SAFF is the only physical separation process for PFAS remediation which has proven successful on a commercial scale anywhere in the world,” he said.
“Our objective has always been to create a simple, replicable and low-cost solution that produces a miniscule amount of waste with zero environmental harm. SAFF leverages the natural physiochemistry of PFAS molecules to bond to the surface of air bubbles and is an efficient, sustainable and rapid system in comparison to other technologies.”
The heart of SAFF technology is its use of fine air bubbles to collect and remove PFAS. Using air, the priority PFAS compounds are floated to the surface and ‘foamed’ out, with water purified to below drinking water guidelines and target PFAS compounds removed to below detectable limits. The modular and scalable properties of SAFF mean that it can be easily transported and upsized for large volume remediation.
Pete Murphy said that simply making the final sixteen from more than 200 original entries at the Australian Technology Competition was an honour given the inventiveness on show in areas such as software development and both medical and agricultural technology.
“We recognise the extent of global PFAS contamination, and that our efforts offer real hope for communities living near PFAS plumes.”
PFAS is an international problem. The EPA has identified more than 1,000 sites in NSW alone, and there are thousands of hot spot sites across Australia, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.