Water Online Radio: Headworks Talks Smart, Sustainable MBBR
Gerald Seidl of Headworks Inc. talks to Water Online Radio about moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) technology, world markets, and maximizing water resources.
Todd Schnick: Good afternoon and welcome back to Water Online Radio. Coming to you live from WEFTEC here in New Orleans, Louisiana, I am Todd Schnick, joined by my friend and colleague, Todd Youngblood. I remember this guy from last time.
Todd Youngblood: I do too. I have notes about him.
Todd Schnick: Yes. We had a debriefing after this guy last time.
Todd Youngblood: Yeah. Over drinks. We needed it.
Todd Schnick: I am excited to welcome back to the show Gerald Seidl, who is the co-owner and senior vice president of Headworks BIO. Welcome back, Gerald.
Gerald: Hey, good afternoon. It is good to see you.
Todd Schnick: It is good to see you again, Gerald. Before we get into it, take a quick sec and tell us a little about you and your background.
Gerald: Well, I am one of the owners. I am originally from Austria. It is actually our 19th WEFTEC we had figured out and…
Todd Youngblood: Nineteen WEFTECs. Wow.
Gerald: Yeah. It makes me old, I know.
Todd Schnick: It makes you experienced to know what the heck you are talking about, is what it makes you.
Gerald: And I am in charge of the marketing and product development side of our company.
Todd Schnick: Well, let us get into it. Talk about Headworks BIO. What do you do and how do you serve your market?
Gerald: Headworks BIO had started several years ago. We moved ahead and expanded from a mechanical division into a process division and one of the things we did, we bought Hydroxyl, a Canadian company, who is one of the original developers of the MBBR technology – moving bed biofilm reactor technology – and from that, really, we now accelerated.
It takes us to the municipal side, industrial side – it takes some time to get into markets. We expanded in the U.S. We set up offices in the Middle East and in India, and so after years of preparation, actually we are now really rock and rolling with a lot of orders, all in various markets – in the Middle East; in India; we just got our first order in the Philippines; and we just got a very big order now here in the U.S. again, in Batesville – the largest lagoon nitrification project in the U.S., a 9-MGD plant.
Todd Youngblood: Wow. Gerald, you guys at Headworks BIO, you have so many different cool products. What are you really highlighting this year, particularly here at the WEFTEC show.
Gerald: Well, on the BIO side, still the MBBR and IFAS process, but not on the mechanical side. One other product we are starting to look at, or a technology what to do, is we bought what you call an option agreement from Texas A&M University about the E-Beam technologies – electronic irradiation technology – which is very innovative for irradiation material.
We have been looking into the biosolids field for sterilization. The technology is already commercially used for food, for instance to use it for mangos coming from India, for beef patties.
Facilities are just under construction for medical device sterilization, so it is a commercially viable technology, not just in the beginning stage, and we are now having the rights and the option to see how we can expand this technology to water.
Todd Schnick: When we talk about process, let us dive in a little bit further and talk more about some of the more recent success you guys have had on the process side.
Gerald: Well, the one project I mentioned, which we just got had the final go-ahead now, is Batesville in Arkansas. It is a 9-MGD lagoon system. They have to do nitrification and, again, this is where the MBBR technology is really extremely suitable to upgrade plants and this is where we are seeing the successes from the U.S. to many other parts of the world.
It is not even so much of a new build, but an upgrade by means of the treatment capacity and/or also the effluent quality – especially with reuse – becomes the big deal where people are running out of groundwater. Desalination is a very expensive option, so then, really, people who were very wasteful on water are starting to look into how to recycle it and reuse it again and improve the traditional plants.
If you have an existing plant there is more or less no other choice out there, if you want to use the same infrastructure. We have one project…we got one order in Egypt where we were just retrofitting a membrane system which didn’t work, but the nature of typical operational maintenance as it in this part of the world happens, and the MBBR technology is one of the most simple technologies.
It is a lot of knowledge how to get it done, but when it is running, it is a very simple, operator-friendly technology. You do not need a PhD guy there for operating the plant.
It is more of a mechanical person who needs valves and pumps to fix that, and so this is really where we are shining and we have proven to all parts of the world from the U.S. to the Far East that we can do that, and this is now starting really to roll out in a big way.
Todd Youngblood: Gerald, I am fascinated how your technology is being applied in all different parts of the world. Talk a little bit about the challenges of dealing with different cultures and different requirements and different priorities that I think you must run into in all these different countries you were working in.
Gerald: The one big difference I have seen, being from Austria helps. Because I have lived in different parts of the world, but one of the real challenges is the different mindsets of people, how they approach things – differences outside of the Americas.
Typically, you do not have a consultant who designs a project in detail and then a contractor that comes in and puts the bits and pieces together.
A lot of our jobs are sort of a design-build where the client says, “Here is my challenge,” and several groups are invited to offer solutions, so you have to really go there, examine what is happening, and come up with a clever idea. Then you have to fit into a client's mindset of price levels, because there is always established price level.
Sometimes they want something very good, but still do not want not to pay for it. And all this you have to get under one umbrella. I have seen people having offers in different parts of the world – people from different regions – that is where we feel we understand the client's needs and I guess getting purchase orders written proves we do the right thing.
Todd Schnick: Well, Gerald, I hate to say it but we are out of time. Before we let you go, how can people get in touch with you and where can they learn more about Headworks BIO?
Gerald: On the website, typically, that is headworksusa.com. Or here at the WEFTEC show – we are in the middle of the hall, booth 2937; you’ll see a huge bar screen, huge orange rotating sign, you cannot miss us.
Todd Schnick: Gerald Seidl, co-owner and senior vice president of Headworks BIO, it was great to see you again. Thanks for coming back to join us.
Gerald: A pleasure. See you next year again.
Todd Schnick: All right. We look forward to it. That wraps this segment for Water Online Radio, live from WEFTEC. We will be right back.