Guest Column | May 17, 2016

BlueTech Forum Reveals Water Technology Future

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By Natasha Wiseman

Technologies which could transform the shape of the water industry of the future will be on show at the fifth BlueTech Forum, to be held in San Francisco.

Water industry market intelligence specialist BlueTech Research has taken a broad view of innovation in its event, titled “20:20 Vision – Insights to Future-proof Your Water Strategy”. The Innovation Showcase at the June 1 event will showcase the work of 11 companies, nominated by the O2 Environmental Technology Assessment Group (TAG).

BlueTech Insight

Chief executive and founder of BlueTech Research, Paul O Callaghan said: “BlueTech Forum aims to give real insight into some of the most exciting clean tech being developed today, while taking an in depth view of the serious environmental issues facing the planet.

“It’s appropriate that BlueTech Forum is being held in California, where the population has faced the reality of water shortages. Many of the technologies we have selected to showcase address the pressing issues of water reuse and water quality and are being developed and applied in the state.

“The water industry does not exist in its own separate bubble, but is affected by changes happening in other industries and other types of business,” said O’Callaghan. “Developments in the Internet of Things and the potential of cloud-based control systems have the potential to completely revolutionize the way water networks are managed and controlled.

“It is also important to consider the growth of micro economies – of the potential impact of sharing business models such as Airbnb.  In future, technology providers could become pseudo operators; we could increasingly see the rise of service-based business models, and industrial users could become part of the bio-based circular economy through recycling and reuse.

“The companies taking part in the Innovation Showcase at BlueTech Forum all have the potential to become part of this new landscape of the future. By understanding what they can offer, today’s decision-makers will be in a better position to anticipate the changes ahead and to future-proof their business.”

11 of the Best

Among the technologies chosen for the Innovation Showcase will be developments in analytics, smart control systems, a localized wastewater system, and advanced technologies for potable water reuse. BlueTech Research is targeting the event at high-level decision-makers such as chief technical officers, strategy advisors, and representatives of industrial users such as the food and beverage industry and oil and gas.

Representatives of the companies featured in the Innovation Showcase will have the opportunity to present detailed information to delegates about each innovative technology, the problem it sets out to solve, the experience during rollout, and the potential return on investment.

Two of the companies featured will be chosen to receive the BlueTech Disrupt-O-Meter Award and the BlueTech Truffle Award and will be invited to join the Innovation Pavilion at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans in September.

California Innovations

BlueTech Forum features a strong showing from California, with companies including Spiral Water, manufacturers of a revolutionary self-cleaning water filter, Pasteurization Technology Group, which has created an energy-efficient pasteurization system for wastewater which recycles heat, as well as Water Planet, a Los Angeles-based company which focuses on water reuse.

Also featured are Boston-based OptiRTC, a cloud-based smart stormwater management system, as well as Boston’s Oasys Water, which specializes in membranes for desalination and water treatment.

Apana, from Washington State, will be presenting a cloud-based water analytics system designed for industrial use; meanwhile, FATHOM, from Phoenix, AZ, will be demonstrating analytics specifically designed for utilities.

Organica, from Princeton, NJ, will be demonstrating the benefits of localized wastewater treatment systems, while Xylem, from New York State, will be championing the advantages of its integrated biological filter and advanced oxidation treatment for potable water.

Representatives from Israel-based NanoSpun will explain its next-generation microbial encapsulation for contaminant removal, and Japanese Hitachi Pegasus Technology will be showing advanced bio-encapsulation methods for nitrogen removal.

Proven and Adopted

Some of the technologies on show have already been widely adopted in the marketplace.  FATHOM, a utility data platform developed by Global Water Resources of Phoenix, AZ, is already in use on four million meters in the U.S.

FATHOM uses the Internet of Things approach to gather, curate, and assess data from smart meters, allowing utilities to gain full understanding and control of the process from meter, to customer, to cash.

Graham Symmonds, Chief Knowledge officer of FATHOM, said: “The beauty of our system is that it was developed by a water utility for a water utility — so we know it works. Smart data can help water utilities increase revenue, decrease costs, save water, and improve service to customers.”

Stefan Urioc, water technology market analyst and data scientist at BlueTech Research, said: “The Internet of Things might be a buzzword for many, but the concept of remotely operating and communicating with devices in the field, as well as analyzing data easily, is slowly taking over the water world. The software-as-a-service data management and analytics suite of tools offered by FATHOM represents a bridge between distributed measuring devices and water utilities and their customers.”

Decentralized Treatment

A radically different type of innovation to be featured in the showcase will be demonstrated by Organica, which will be explaining its “garden” technology — a way of designing low-energy, low-physical-footprint localized wastewater treatment plants.  The systems use a combination of bacteria and natural plants to create effective local treatment in a horticultural setting.

Attila Bodnár, executive vice president of Organica Water, said: “Traditionally, wastewater treatment has been achieved with large, odorous plants with strong negative impact on the community, thus forcing them to be located far away from people. At the same time, all over the world, rivers are running dry, making treated wastewater an inevitable alternative source of water.

“However, when the plants are located so far from population centers it requires massive infrastructure to pump it back, making reuse uneconomic. Organica’s holistic approach directly addresses the issue by focusing on efficiency both inside and outside the facility.”

Paul O’Callaghan, chief executive of BlueTech Research, added: “Organica has a transformative vision for the future of wastewater treatment. The company’s wastewater solutions bring the natural world into towns and cities, creating new spaces and enhancing quality of life for residents.

“Organica is not only enhancing sanitation and process engineering; it is changing the relationship of communities to the environment, waste, and resources.”

Technologically Advanced

Also joining the Innovation Showcase is Oasys Water, the world’s leading provider of integrated forward osmosis (FO) systems for high recovery desalination, including brine management and zero liquid discharge (ZLD). Oasys has been making great inroads into the rapidly expanding wastewater treatment market in China, which has very strict regulations on ZLD.

Oasys FO skids

According to O2 Environmental TAG member Graeme Pearce, “Interest in forward osmosis has grown sharply both in academia and several specialized companies, including Oasys. There has been good progress in addressing the challenges of commercialization too, and several attractive application niches are now developing which could present an ideal opportunity for diverse product offerings from specialized suppliers.”

Presenting its self-cleaning filter system will be Spiral Water.  The revolutionary filter, which can be used even on water with a high level of suspended solids, contains a spiral-shaped wiper which continually cleans the filter element. Using a constantly spinning cleansing mechanism means that dirt does not build up, so the pressure differential as liquid passes through the filter is minimal, optimizing energy consumption.

David Levitt, Chief Technology Officer of Spiral Water, stated: “We originally developed the self-cleaning filter for use in biofuel production. It was important to make it cost effective by minimizing the energy requirement for filtration.”

The Spiral Water Filter can be used on industrial wastewater, seawater, and produced water from oil processing. It has also been applied in the food and beverage sector both on brewery wastewater and, in one instance, to maximize juice recovery for a pomegranate processor.

“The Spiral Water Filter is a very exciting development,” said Graeme Pearce. “The combination of a pretreatment strainer with a highly effective solids concentrator addresses some real unmet needs in the industry. This technology has an amazing breadth of operation and achieves significantly higher solids operation than competitor technologies.”

Spiral Water Duplex skid

Radical Change

The BlueTech Forum water conference will be held in San Francisco on June 1 at the San Francisco Airport Hotel. Speakers will include NASA chief scientist Dennis Bushnell, advisor to the U.S. Government on climate change; Jonathan Clement, CEO of PWN; and Emilio Tenuta, VP of Corporate Sustainability for Ecolab.

Paul O’Callaghan noted: “Innovation is not always about the invention of new machines and processes, but also about the development of radical new business models and new ways of operating in a rapidly changing world.  The shortlist for the BlueTech innovation awards reflects this big picture approach, which is part of what makes the BlueTech Forum one of the most stimulating and challenging events in the water industry calendar.”

For more details and registration, go to http://www.bluetechforum.com/.

Short-listed Innovation Showcase Companies:

  • Apana – Predictive analytics for commercial water management
  • Fathom Water – Smart water and Internet of Things technology for water utility applications
  • Hitachi Pegasus Technology – Advanced bio-encapsulation technology for nitrogen removal
  • Nanospun – Next-generation biotechnology: microbial encapsulation for contaminant removal
  • Oasys Water – Forward osmosis technology for zero liquid discharge in power and oil and gas
  • OptiRTC – Predictive analytics for stormwater management
  • Organica Water – Decentralized wastewater treatment and water reuse
  • Pasteurization Technology Group – Energy recovery disinfection system for water reuse
  • Spiral Water – Macro-filtration case study in the food and beverage sector
  • Water Planet – Ceramic membranes and predictive analytics for produced water reuse
  • Xylem – Integrated biological filter and advanced oxidation for micro-pollutant removal in potable water

Image credit: "'DSC_7512," Pai Shih © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/