A WATER treatment company is expanding its zero discharge filtration systems into the municipal sector.
Baleen Filters, based in Adelaide, South Australia, has used its unique technology to build water-cleaning machines for the agriculture, meat and mining industries since 1999.
Its internationally patented filtration systems filter water through 316 stainless steel mesh in a similar way as how a baleen whale, which lends its name to the company, separates seawater from krill.
The separate water and solid waste can then be recycled for other uses.
Baleen Filters has installed about 200 of the systems across Australia as well as in New Zealand, Asia and the United States.
Starting out in the dried fruits industry in Victoria, the company then expanded into the Australian meat and by-products industry and began having export success in the mid-2000s.
“The big prize was the US where it took us a few years to gain traction with a leading client in the meat industry,” Baleen Filters Managing Director Yuri Obst said.
“Meat processing effluent is fairly close to the most repugnant you can get, it’s very rich in solubles and suspended solids, blood, fat, grease, meat.”
The Baleen filter uses steel mesh with holes that range in size from 20 microns to 1mm depending on the application, which is significantly finer than competing products.
Different sized systems can treat from 20,000 litres a day through to 2 million litres per hour.
Obst, pictured, said adding a second finer mesh filter and a third stage where water was disinfected returned the water to a standard where it could be used for irrigation.
“Every time we go to a site to demonstrate Baleen we split the atom as far as water treatment is concerned – there is much to gain by separating wastewater into its constituent parts, waste plus water,” he said.
“The core approach is to get close to the source (of contamination) – imagine if you leave dirty dishes on your sink only to get to them a few days later they’re harder to deal with particularly if materials have broken down and adhered to the plate.”
“Like washing a plate, as soon as you’ve finished with it (water), using Baleen can immediately eliminate the need for further treatments.”
Baleen is being used for minerals recovery in the mining sector at large scale, and the company is now looking to expand into the treatment of municipal sewage.
"There’s not a municipal plant on the planet that Baleen can’t benefit."
It has so far installed eight municipal-grade systems in Australia including working with fellow South Australian company Osmoflo to supply reverse osmosis desalination plants at Barrow Island off Western Australia for remote mining camps. The filters are used to separate marine debris and fine organic matter from seawater prior to reverse osmosis.
“Treating sewage for the purpose of reuse presents a growing opportunity. The sector is more active now than it was 15 years ago,” Obst said.
“Technology evolves, infrastructure deteriorates and towns expand so there is definite opportunity there.”
So much opportunity in fact, that Baleen has presented its findings at the request of UN advisors to the G7, G20, World Bank and COP22 events this year.
“If you go through a float or a sink approach (to separating contaminants from waste water) you still end up with polluted water. With Baleen there is no liquid loss, and you end up with useful solid waste. Then you disinfect the water and it is suitable for irrigation.”
Baleen is looking for a “pioneer” to help drive the sewage treatment side of the business with a clear focus upon “ending marine pollution”.
Obst said entering industry sectors that have a vested interest in traditional infrastructure such as that held by municipal water treatment was difficult.
“There’s not a municipal plant on the planet that Baleen can’t benefit,” he said.
“If you can get to wastewater early with Baleen, the net return to the client is dramatic mainly because there are recyclables and bio-mass worth reclaiming - so it’s all about recovering water without the need of throwing a lot of consumables at it.
“There are technology pioneers out there, some are already onside … finding them is the real challenge.”