Archive for the ‘water reuse’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Corporate WaterVision 2010

I attended the Corporate WaterVision 2010 Conference in Washington DC June 8-9.The sponsors appeared to be newbies to the water conference circuit–so I didn’t know what to expect.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I came away with two ideas in terms of best practices: One for desalination from Australia and the other for water reuse from Canada.

I’ll only spend a¬† couple sentences on desal¬† best practices from Australia because its too big a subject–and wasn’t part of the main theme of the conference–which was water reuse.¬†¬† On Wednesday morning¬† Hu Fleming, Global Director of¬† Hatch Water gave a presentation on Australian desalination.¬†¬†¬† What I heard was¬† just amazing. I’d seen the first graph Hu presented in February at the Multi State Salinity Coalition Conference in Las Vegas. That graph contrasts vividly the 15 year conception-to-completion-cycle for Poisden’s Carlsbad desalination plant in southern California …. — to the 3 year conception-to-completion-cycle –¬† for all the many Aussie desal plants. (page 38)What I didn’t hear the last time was that in several instances the desal plants– during construction– were found to be coming in under time and under budget — so they doubled their capacity on the fly. How did they do that? (and still stay on time and on budget?) The first big one was 3D & 4D modeling (pg 42). The second big one was no fault, no blame, and no dispute commercial framework between the owners and service providers at all stages. (pg 46) There were others.

But that’s a long story. I asked Hu Fleming¬† if he would be willing to give the presentation again elsewhere.–& so would he mind if I posted¬† the¬† pdf (here) for his presentation and his email online. He was agreeable. The pdf is all publicly available info. His shop has had considerable dealings with Australia — so he’s intimately familiar with the story. If you have a conference and¬† are interested in having a presenter detail¬† Australia’s big desalination building projects — Hu’s email address is:

imho the Australia story needs to be told and retold at every American desalination conference for years to come so that people will get the idea that it might be a good idea to adopt some Australia’s practices.

It took a little more thought to stitch together the second big theme of the conference. I was clued to an interesting Canadian story by an off handed comment  by  the last panelist of the last panel on Tuesday. The panel was entitled Sustainability Leaders II: Assessing Water Reuse and Other Innovative Water Solutions. The guy who made the comment was  Rishi Shukla, Ph.D.,  from the James R. Randall Research Center of Archer Daniels Midland Company.

He said Canada actually does a better job of converting water reuse ideas into profit making companies than the USA does. The way they do it is through a program called Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement ( OCETA).  According to their website

OCETA was incorporated in 1993 as one of three Canadian Environmental Technology Advancement Centres to strengthen and grow the environmental industry in Canada. OCETA is a private company that operates at arm’s length from government.

The core mandate of OCETA is to provide technical support and business services to entrepreneurs, start-up companies and small to medium-sized enterprises to support the commercialization of new environmental technologies, and to accelerate market adoption of clean technology and environmentally sustainable solutions.

OCETA  provides funding at a rate of 4 to 1 for start ups. That is, for every dollar the start-up invests OCETA provides four dollars.

The USA does have similar programs on the state levelEspecially prominent is Massachusetts.  To augment these programs a  May 2010  Brookings Institute Study recommended more programs by the federal government to provide access to to capital for entrepreneurial start ups. A Wednesday morning panel entitled; Steps Toward a National Reclaimed Water Standard addressed this. Panelist Jon Freedman, Global Government Relations Leader  for  GE mentioned that more federal funds for water reuse start ups would spur development.  As well, he mentioned that a number of GE suggested policy initiatives .

The USA does have small federal agencies that fund start ups for defense and intelligence. Pound for pound probably the best agency in the Federal Government in terms of payback to the economy is DARPA.¬† Their seed money has been meant to fund technology for DOD related industries — but, curiously, Darpa seed money has been¬† at the root of many great US companies since its inception in the 1950′s. In recent years DARPA has even funded carbon nanotube membrane research.

The WateReuse Research Foundation might serve a similar purpose as DARPA for the express purpose of channeling federal dollars to start ups that treat waste water –like municipal sewage as a resource–with an eye out to one day turning the waste output of municipalities into profit centers –rather than cost centers.

My favorite storm water idea is to pipe Mississippi flood water west rather than spend billions through FEMA and the Core of Engineer to dike the river.

But practical sewage water solutions are closer than most people currently understand. ¬† Here is a waste lagoon in Utah that’s being converted into an algae biofuel production facility.¬† A prototype waste treatment plant in Hawaii –being deployed by American Water– promises operating cost savings of up to 70%. This article lists companies that extract various¬† resources including phosphorous and ammonia from waste treatment plants. In Sept 2009,

At the Water Innovations Alliance in Chicago, Mark Shannon, Director of the NSF STC WaterCAMPWS at the University of Illinois, sketched out a vision for a new type of water purification system that will convert sewage into re-usable water, methane and a sludge of minerals that can be sold to manufacturers or brick makers.

Shannon is currently in the midst of raising funds to build a prototype that would work with 20 liters at a time. The Solara in New York’s Battery Park neighborhood has a 580 water recovery units that work aerobically.

The minerals recovered include magnesium, boron, fly ash and lithium. Simbol Mining, a startup spun out of Lawrence Livermore, has a technique for extracting lithium from water. Right now, cities pay to have the stuff stored. El Paso, for instance, re-injects the salts and minerals from its desalination system back into the ground when it could conceivably sell them.

According to this May 21, 2001 article in Water Online– Biodiesel From Sewage Sludge [Is] Within Pennies A Gallon Of Being Competitive

With the challenges addressed, “Biodiesel production from sludge could be very profitable in the long run,” the report states. “Currently the estimated cost of production is $3.11 per gallon of biodiesel. To be competitive, this cost should be reduced to levels that are at or below [recent] petro diesel costs of $3.00 per gallon.”

Where would WateReuse Research Foundation find promising start ups and how would they vet them? The last speaker of the conference was Paul O’Callaghan, CEO, O2 Environmental Inc. He mentioned that his shop has a list of over 600 start ups in all stages of development. Interestingly their top choice for a company with game changer tech is Emefcy. According to their site:

Emefcy eliminates the energy consumption for wastewater treatment, by applying the principle of microbial fuel cells (MFC) for the direct production of electricity or hydrogen from wastewater.

So in total there are companies looking to turn municipal sewage into gas, oil, electricity and hydrogen.

The WaterReUse Research Foundation already provides money for basic research–so the institute is positioned to find promising technology moving into the start up phase.

Odds are there will be several municipal bankruptcies in the next couple years. Many if not most municipalities are financially challenged these days. As was pointed out by the Water Infrastructure Funding panel on Tuesday–the need for water infrastructure projects is great. There are currently initiatives in various phases of realization inside and outside congress to make municipal bonds more attractive. If municipal waste became a profit center– rather than a cost center–municipal bonds would be an easy sell.

All in all, it was a good conference. Remember for any conference you do– book Hu Fleming for a review of Australia desalination best practices. As well, consider that Canada’s OCETA & the DOD’s Darpa might serve as models for a federally funded water reuse start up initiative.

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