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SA water management technology has global impact

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FROM cleaning up industrial waste water in China to Canadian sewage systems and methods to improve the Ganges in India, a raft of South Australian companies are taking their sustainable water cleaning technologies and selling them to the world.

Staff from Adelaide company Micromet spent much of August in the major port and industrial Chinese city of Ningbo testing the company’s Generation 3 water treatment machine, which uses electrolysis to remove pollutants from contaminated water such as sewage, grey water, and industrial effluents.

The in situ tests are a pre-cursor to the establishment of a mass production model in Adelaide.

Micromet Engineering Sales Director Andrew Townsend said the Gen 3 device could treat the desired two litres of water a second. He said its one-tank design enabled mass manufacturing at a relatively low cost.

Townsend said Australian products had a good reputation in the water treatment space in China.

“They are very happy with ‘Made in Australia’,” he said.

Micromet’s process uses continuous flow electrolysis methods with special anti passivation technology that has eluded such systems in the past. The Micromet equipment is also very energy efficient, using just 0.25KWH to process 1000 litres compared to a reverse osmosis system that can require 20-40KWH to process the same amount.

The company has been manufacturing mainly irrigation control technology in South Australia for two decades. But it was forced to look for new opportunities in wastewater treatment when the Millennium Drought almost brought Micromet to its knees.

Until now the company has been mainly focused on wastewater treatment research and development, producing only a handful of commercial bespoke machines. The new plant will aim to produce 50 six-module machines a month within a year.

“What Micromet has developed is a fair bit cheaper in terms of the actual machine in the first instance and on top of that is a fair bit cheaper to run than most other types of systems,” Townsend said.

“We’re up to Generation 3, we’re imagining Generation 4 will be our first solar powered model and Generation 5 we’re hoping will literally be able to float on a dam, be powered by solar and treat the dam while floating on it.”

Micromet took a prototype machine to China in November and successfully treated three highly contaminated industrial wastewaters – electroplating water, machining emulsion and garbage permeate as part of a demonstration.

Non-industrial water treatment applications include sewage and mining waste such as fracking water.

The treated “A Class” water can then be re-used in factories or mines or used for irrigation. The pollutants removed from the wastewater account for about six per cent of the original volume.

“My hope is that we can eventually get to the point where we can return the treated water to the environment,” Townsend said.

“Water doesn’t wear out – many factories will be able to use the water again and again.”

It is not the company’s first international venture.

Micromet partnered with a Canadian business to create a joint venture called Living Sky Water Solutions in 2014 after Canada’s Water Security Agency outlawed the “lagooning” method of treating effluent in small communities.

In February it signed a deal to build a one megalitre per day wastewater treatment plant for the prairie town of Kerrobert in Saskatchewan, Canada.

“We have another five (Canadian towns) on the books in various stages of negotiations and the number of communities over there that need a service similar to ours is about 1800 so we estimate the potential value of Canada to us is about $1 billion over five to seven years,” Townsend said.

Another South Australian company kicking goals in the water treatment industry is Hydro-dis Water Treatment Systems.

The company, based in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, has developed a new device that provides immediate disinfection, improves the efficiency of metal removal and includes residual chlorine to reduce contamination after treatment.

Hydro-dis’ treatment technology uses insitu electro-catalytic generation of chlorine to disinfect water and can be used for various industries to treat potable, non-potable and wastewater.

The unique technique creates chloride ions from salt already present in the water even when it is present in very small amounts, making it suitable for freshwater and saltwater sources.

The device also works to prevent scaling and fouling.

The company has several machines operating in rural areas in Western Australia. It is ramping up production in Adelaide with the aim of targeting international markets.

Managing Director Mark Carey travelled to India in August as part of a South Australian delegation to the arid state of Rajasthan to help provide water disinfection solutions. The company was also invited to provide advice for cleaning up the Ganges – India’s holy river.

He said the Hydro-dis technology was a simple alternative to other contemporary treatment methods and would be highly beneficial for rural communities.

“We are reducing environmental footprints, health and safety in the workplace, and costs across the board,” he said.

“Our product is in the same boat as UV and Ozone systems because it has immediate killing power but we provide a residual to chlorine, which gives the water a level that meets the standard of drinking water. 

Systems are scalable and can churn up to 10 million litres a day.

In July, Hydro-dis was awarded the Water Treatment and Re-Use Award for its disinfection technology at the 2016 Smart Water Awards in Adelaide.

Adelaide company Factor UTB was recognized for Excellence in Environmental Practice at the awards.

Factor UTB has developed technology that uses the Internet of Things to alter the treatment environment for winery, industrial and municipal wastewater.

CEO Rex Gibbs said the monitoring technology allowed the company to target and strengthen the bacteria that cleaned the water in holding tanks.

He said native bacteria that attacked organic pollutants and excess nutrients in wastewater were harvested from sewage pipes, winery drains and waste streams.

“Then we train them up like Olympic hopefuls so they do what we want,” Gibbs said.

“We are achieving nutrient results that are far better than almost anything else that is being produced. We are also able to achieve this at less than a dollar of chemicals per kilolitre treated.”

Beyond the wine industry, the company has also built water tanks for Acacia Prison in Western Australia – the nation’s largest correctional facility.

Factor UTB uses 3G networks to access water tank controls to manipulate the environment. It is also able to control the pumps remotely across large distances.

Tanks are fitted with sensors to detect pipe leaks, which can send an immediate notification to company personnel. 

The tanks are also fitted with probes and sensors to detect changes in alkalinity or oxygen levels and automatically adjust settings to optimise water treatment.

“We remove about 90 per cent of the pollutants and then when re-treated we remove 90 per cent of what's left,” Gibbs said.

“The treated water can be used for many things without further treatment.

“The biggest tank we built for a winery is in Marlborough (New Zealand) and is about 1800sq m. If an Adelaide home churns through 500 litres a day, the one in New Zealand can churn about a 22,000 house equivalent.”

Gibbs said Factor UTB was in talks with wineries in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Baleen Filters is expanding its zero discharge filtration systems into the municipal sector. The Thebarton-based company 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.

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.

“Treating sewage for the purpose of reuse presents a growing opportunity. The sector is more active now than it was 15 years ago,” Baleen Filters Managing Director Yuri 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.

“There’s not a municipal plant on the planet that Baleen can’t benefit,” Obst said.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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