Collection of water and wastewater news headlines from the Americas/Asia

Fuel cells: a replacement for wastewater activated sludge treatment?

Microbial fuel cells could produce electricity directly from wastewater and replace activated sludge and anaerobic digestion methods, researchers have claimed. Engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) have found that microbial fuel cells can produce electricity directly from wastewater, which they said will mean that wastewater treatment plants could eventually generate enough power to sell excess electricity.

OSU claimed the technology can now produce 10 to 50 more times the electricity, per volume, than most other approaches using microbial fuel cells, and 100 times more electricity than some.

Researchers said this could eventually change the way that wastewater is treated all over the world, replacing the widely used activated sludge process that has been in use for almost a century.

The findings have just been published in Energy and Environmental Science, a professional journal, in work funded by the National Science Foundation.

The technology cleans wastewater using a different approach than the aerobic bacteria. Bacteria oxidize the organic matter and, in the process, produce electrons that run from the anode to the cathode within the fuel cell, creating an electrical current.

OSU researchers reported several years ago on the promise of this technology but at that time the systems in use produced far less electrical power. With new concepts – reduced anode-cathode spacing, evolved microbes and new separator materials – the technology can now produce more than two kilowatts per cubic meter of liquid reactor volume, OSU claimed.

The system has been tested on a laboratory scale and OSU said the next stage is a pilot study, for which funding is being sought. A food processing plant has been suggested as a possible testing ground.

Once advances are made to reduce high initial costs, researchers estimated that the capital construction costs of this new technology should be comparable to that of the activated sludge systems now in widespread use today – and even less expensive when future sales of excess electricity are factored in.

News Briefs

Brazilian utility Copasa to expand water meters

Companhia de Saneamento de Minas Gerais (COPASA), Brazil's second largest water utility, has selected Elster to supply up to 110,000 S120 single-jet water meters in Brazil over the next eight months. The company will deploy the meters to provide more accurate water usage measurement, to improve revenue generation and to reduce water leakage.

Water scarcity could result from China's coal expansion, says Greenpeace

A plan from China to increase its coal fired power plants by 2015 could trigger a severe water crisis in the country's arid Northwest, a report by environmental activists Greenpeace has claimed. According to the report 'Thirsty Coal: A Water Crisis Exacerbated by China's New Mega Coal Power Bases', the 16 new facilities to be situated in provinces such as Inner Mongolia could consume ten billion cubic meters of water.

Industrial wastewater treatment boosted in Singapore by Sembcorp

Sembcorp Industries has started commercial operation of its S$40 million ($32 million) industrial wastewater treatment facility on Jurong Island. The S$40 million plant will treat 9600 m3 per day of complex wastewater from 16 companies on the island and has helped to double the firm's capacity in Singapore. The wastewater treatment plant is part of Sembcorp's upcoming S$960 million cluster of facilities to serve Jurong Island.

Desalination plant in Karachi Port, Pakistan awarded

The Port Qasim Authority in Karachi, Pakistan has awarded Aeromix Systems a USD$775 million contract to develop a 97 million gallon per day desalination facility. The project involves the design, build, operation and financing to serve the fresh water needs of approximately 500 industrial buildings. The financing of the facility will allow the Pakistani Authorities to pay Aeromix for the treatment plants through the purchase of the treatment water over time.

Shipboard desalination set for sail with the U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy, under the Office of Naval Research (ONR), has contracted Pall for a multi-phase project to develop an advanced shipboard desalination system specifically for the challenges. During the first six-month phase of the project, Pall scientists will adapt hollow-fiber microfiltration and reverse osmosis membrane technologies to design a solution capable of producing 4,000 gallons per day of potable water. In the year-long second phase of the program, a prototype system will be developed and tested on land. In the final 18-month phase, a fully compliant system will be tested for six months on a naval ship.

WesTech acquires Microfloc and General Filter from Siemens

WesTech Engineering has signed an agreement to purchase the conventional water treatment business of Siemens Industry that includes the Microfloc and General Filter product portfolios. The agreement includes all active projects, associated assets and liabilities, inventory, and associated patents and trademarks, as well as the facility in Ames, Iowa. Sixty-two active employees dedicated to this business will join WesTech. Dr. Lukas Loeffler, CEO Water Technologies of Siemens said the product lines are "solid businesses" but that they did not fit within the company's portfolio.

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