Helping companies generate value from their waste water

Vibrating Sheer Enhanced Process (VSEP) technology supplied by leading South African sustainable water and energy solutions provider Talbot is an attractive proposition for industries that have the opportunity to reclaim large volumes of valuable raw material lost in their effluent streams.

Talbot can simultaneously treat the poorest quality water to produce both a clean water stream suitable for reuse and/or discharge, and a concentrated high-quality product stream which can be reworked into manufacturing or industrial processes. This presents clients with the opportunity to not only reduce their reliance on increasingly costly municipal supplies in water-stressed communities, but also to reduce wastage of product and raw materials.

“The technology can be used by companies engaged in anything from precious metals through  pulp and paper, to milk, cheese and wine production,” says Talbot consulting services general manager Claire Lipsett, who describes how VSEP was recently tested in a fertiliser application, with impressive results.

A sustainable, cost-effective option

The client – which produces agricultural fertilisers for the domestic and export markets –had maximised all available opportunities to reuse its effluent in the production process and was required to divert excess water into onsite evaporation ponds that had already reached their design capacity.

“Companies are fast realising that building additional effluent storage facilities on their sites merely defers the problem and that treatment is by far the more sustainable and cost-effective option,” she says.

“In this case, the client faced two challenges. Apart from the significant risk of accidental overflow, particularly during the rainy season, large quantities of ammonia, nitrates and phosphates – all high-value ingredients in fertiliser production – lay unclaimed.”

Using its mobile test facility, Talbot was able to prove VSEP’s effectiveness in recovering these raw materials while at the same time generating high-quality water that could be used elsewhere in the customer’s processes. It also, once again, demonstrated the technology’s ability to provide freeboard in severely constrained waste containment facilities.

Doing what other technologies can’t

“The water was contaminated with exceedingly high levels of total dissolved solids which poses a number of challenges for traditional treatment methods owing to its high scaling and precipitation potential,” says Lipsett.

She explains that the technology is ideal for waters that aren’t typically treatable by conventional ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis systems.

“The VSEP system has a much wider range of applications than conventional membrane systems as vibration prevents scale formation on the membranes whilst still producing an RO quality permeate that can then be further polished using conventional membrane systems, if required, and reused” she says.

“We were able to recover 91% of the solids dissolved in the wastewater stream while reusing more than 50% of the liquid in the production facility’s cooling towers as a direct substitute for municipal supply.”

Pilot trials

Lipsett explains that opportunities for water recovery and reuse are gaining increasing prominence among water-intensive industries as they start to recognise the very real impact that rising water scarcity will have on their businesses. Added to this, tariffs are expected to rise in double digit figures for the foreseeable future.

Talbot is unique in the fact that it offers mobile laboratory and pilot trial options to potential clients while developing in-house models to demonstrate the potential of utilising specialised product-recovery solutions within a given operation.