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Strategic partnership to allow Super Critical Water Oxidation to gain momentum.

15 November 2010

A strategic partnership between Rockwell Automation and Ireland-based SCFI, has been announced, in a bid to change the way that water and waste water sludge is dealt with – by using a 'Super Critical Water Oxidation’ process that results in almost 100% solubility for gases and organic compounds.

The companies are expecting to produce the first commercial unit to be fully operational in the autumn of 2011.

The units work by raising the temperature of the water/sludge to 374oC and pressurising it to 221 Bar to bring about a supercritical condition or ‘fourth phase’ – a process called Super Critical Water Oxidation. This process results in the solubility of gases and organic compounds being increased to almost 100%, while inorganic compounds become largely insoluble.

Wet Air Oxidation processes typically achieve only partial oxidation of pharmaceutical wastewater, whereas in the Super Critical phase, complete oxidation is achieved. Also, as the oxidation occurs in the ‘water’ phase, the process does not have the air emissions issues which are associated with incineration of high strength organic wastewater streams.

Commenting on the project, Vincent Guillaumie, Rockwell Automation’s water and waste water industry business manager in EMEA: “Our partnership with SCFI demonstrates our commitment to working with partners at the cutting edge of new technologies. This technology is particularly timely as it can replace expensive and wasteful practices for disposing of wastewater that cannot be treated in a traditional way under tight EU regulations.’

“As recently as 1998 such waste was often dumped at sea, but a worldwide ban on the practice left the industry with three main options to deal with this waste; incineration, landfill and land spreading.

“Treating a high strength industrial waste-stream from the pharmaceutical industry with this type of application is of particular interest to us as we are very active in the pharmaceutical market and also offer solvent recovery solutions for wastewater of this type. With both solvent recovery and wastewater treatment technology Rockwell Automation is able to integrate comprehensive solutions for pharmaceutical waste needs.”

The Rockwell Automation control platform, all mechanical and electrical components, instruments and controls for the new units are are built in Cork, Ireland. The units are built on ‘skids’ so that they can be produced in a modular way and easily transported to any part of the globe.

The process is carbon neutral and provides return on investment by eliminating the costs of disposal. A standard sized unit would return the outlay investment in five to six years and then save money year on year after that. “The reduced carbon emissions compared to incineration or transport for landfill could prove to be very important for water companies seeking to comply with the Europe’s strict Carbon Reduction Commitments,” concluded Guillaumie.


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