Companies such as Israel’s Aqwise see a growing market for ecological wastewater and sanitation services. Backed by a diverse group of investors, including Israel’s Cleantech Ventures, Elron Electronic Industries and AHMSA Steel Israel, a subsidiary of Altos Hornos de Mexico SA de CV, Aqwise is looking to build and grow along with a market and industry that is expanding and consolidating as it attracts investments from multinational corporations.
Aqwise currently has 40 installations up and running, split 50-50 between industry and municipal customers, as well as a large number of projects in its development pipeline. “We are currently active in the food and beverage industry, which has a lot of organic material in its wastewater, and we have quite a lot of experience in the pulp and paper industry – recycling paper is very water-intensive.
“We’re also in aquaculture – fish ponds to increase yields and re-circulate water in inland fish ponds, as well as two new fields: one is definitely the oil and gas world – petrochemical refineries – and we’re now starting to penetrate the biofuel industry – corn and other ethanol plants, which have a lot of wastewater to treat,” explained Aqwise CEO Elad Frenkel during an April interview, the first installment of which can be found here.
Stricter Regulatory Environment, Growing Demand
Governments in many countries around the world are taking a greater interest in, and instituting new, more rigorous regulations on companies and public agencies involved in managing water resources in light of growing concerns about the quantity, quality and distribution of water supplies and how climate change is and may affect them.
“Many countries are imposing higher standards that require these industries to have pre-treatment facilities because the municipal plants cannot handle the heavy loads of organic matter [in their wastewater streams],” Frenkel explained.
Aqwise, as a result, is seeing growing demand for its AGAR (Attached Growth Airlift Reactor), which promotes growth and productivity of the bacteria naturally present in wastewater streams that break down potentially toxic organic waste products.
“We’re now active in Asia-Pacific, where we have some very large projects, Eastern Europe, and we are very active in western Europe…as well as in Mexico through a local subsidiary and in North America – the U.S. and Canada – through an exclusive licensing agreement with Siemens Water Technology,” Frenkel elaborated.
One of the big attractions of Aqwise’s AGAR technology is that existing wastewater treatment plants can be retrofitted with the AGAR system relatively easily and cost-effectively, bringing them up to meet or exceed higher, more stringent water quality standards in short order, according to Frenkel.
The AGAR Process
At the heart of Aqwise’s AGAR process are so-called “biomass carriers”, essentially small, plastic particles designed to provide the bacteria present in wastewater streams that break down organic matter the maximum surface area on which to grow, Frenkel explained.
Essentially, “we’re just giving the bacteria already active in the wastewater, built into the wastewater, providing with them the best, the optimal conditions to grow and do the job nature intended.”
A small plant might process anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand cubic liters of wastewater per day while large plants may treat in the hundreds of thousands on a daily basis, he added.
Due to climate conditions, Israel has long been at the forefront of water resource management. Aqwise, for its part, is ramping up its R&D investment as it seeks to expand and secure its position as a market leader.
As far as reusing water within a plant, in agriculture or within a municipality, around 75% of wastewater in Israel is being reused…In the Western world, I think Spain is a leader, but even there it’s less than 20%…It’s not a surprise that this technology comes out of Israel. We’ve traditionally been very informed and conscious of the need to save, treat and reuse water.”