Kiwi company creates world first sustainable silica with big business potential

Taupō's natural hot springs provide energy for around 50,000 domestic homes, but there is a valuable mineral in the murky pools that goes to waste.

The finished product can be used across the construction industry, for golf clubs and even medical implants. Source: 1 NEWS

Now, at Ohaaki Power Station, they've built a brand new plant to extract the silica from geothermal fluid.

In a world first, the boiling liquid is rapidly cooled and the silica is removed through state of the art filters.

"We filter that out, wash it and concentrate it and we further process it into the products we sell on the market." John Lea from Geo40 told 1 NEWS as he gave a tour of the new plant.

The finished product is a liquid form of colloidal silica, or a powder type substance. It may not look special, but it's used across the construction industry and can be used to make golf clubs and even medical implants.

The project is a partnership with Contact Energy, who run Ohaaki Power Station and the local iwi Ngāti Tahu. John Lea says it has big global potential.

"The business potential is huge. The global market for silica is around one million tonnes, this plant produces 460 tonnes of product. As we grow in the geothermal industry in NZ the potential here is to have quite a substantial export earner for the country."

Extracting the substance has some added benefits. It means the power station can generate up to 30 per cent more electricity

The silica-free water will also be pumped back into the historical Ohaaki Ngawha, restoring the hot spring's clarity.

Ngāti Tahu say they partnered with the project to provide jobs for their people. Aroha Campbell says some have already been employed on site.

"One of the aspirations for the Ngāti Tahu Tribal Lands Trust is to rebuild a community because that is what used to be here."

With worldwide orders already, the plan is to expand production across all geothermal fields in the area.