Bubbling New Technologies for Cost Effective Wastewater Purification: Mapal and Diffusaire

One of the biggest challenges in the water arena is lowering the cost of wastewater purification, which is a heavy consumer of energy. Israeli start-ups Diffusaire and Mapal have developed technologies which bring dramatic cost-savings to wastewater treatment facilities.

Wastewater Treatment – Background

In advertising for home water purification systems we’re used to seeing pure, crystal clear water, but in reality the water only stays looking like this for a very short while, and actually all the water we use quickly turn to sewage water – drinking water, bath water, water used in industry …everything. Wastewater treatment is a very central activity in the water arena. Wastewater treatment uses up 1.5% of all the energy consumption in the U.S., so we’re talking about a big guzzler of energy.

Wastewater that remains untreated goes on to contaminate land and water sources. It is absolutely essential to treat wastewater, and in most of the world wastewater is converted into water for agriculture (Israel holds the #1 position in the world with 75% of wastewater reclaimed).

Wastewater is treated in wastewater treatment facilities which can be divided into two main types: open basins, large and shallow, situated in cheaper land outside residential areas, and the smaller, deep concrete pools, located in urban areas, on more expensive, more crowded land.

The purification of the contaminants that are dissolved in the water is done through bacteria which gobble them up (“biological purification”) and just as in fish tanks there need to be water bubbles so that the fish get oxygen, it’s also necessary to supply the bacteria with oxygen so that they can go on doing their job. Therefore, wastewater treatment facilities include aeration systems, which function is to bring oxygen into the pool. Today, the fine bubbles diffusers systems, which use advanced systems to insert small oxygen bubbles into them facility, are becoming more and more popular.

The diffusers are pipe systems which bring bubbles from the bottom of the facility pool. It’s possible to install such systems only in facilities with a concrete floor and not in open air pools. Open pools usually have a mechanical top layer device installed, and this system uses up a lot more energy, because it necessitates ongoing, costly maintenance. Therefore, the industry prefers bottom pool systems. Either way, we’re talking about an energy guzzler – about 50% of the energy expenditure of the entire facility.

Two Israeli start-ups are showing excellent progress in the race to develop winning solutions to make airing of wastewater facilities less costly: Diffusaire and Mapal. Diffusaire has developed a next generation diffuser, an innovative under-floor airing system for wastewater facilities with a concrete floor, and Mapal developed a technology for covering and upgrading existing diffusers, in order to utilize them in places where before it was impossible to do so (open air basins without a concrete floor). The bottom line is that both companies’ solutions bring dramatic reductions in operational costs.

First steps in the market:

Diffusaire works out of the water incubator Kinrot Ventures. The technology that the Company developed multiplies the length of time that the bubbles stay in the wastewater, thus significantly increasing the oxygen supply in the process. According to the Company, this creates a 25% reduction in costs in comparison with other diffusers.

According to Yuval Suskind, Diffusaire’s CEO, the Company has completed testing and is now signing first agreements with two Israeli water utilities – the “Tkua” utility in the Judean area, and the “Mei Reket” utility in Tiberius. Up until this point the Israeli government has invested about half a million dollars in the Company, which is entering its third year of activity in the Kinrot incubator and is seeking out private investment of $2 million. The objective of the investment is to finance the projects in Israel, as well as to market the solution in Europe, North America and India.

The second Israeli company active in this sphere, Mapal, targets a different kind of wastewater treatment facility, the open air basins, in which as mentioned, it’s not possible to install under-floor systems. Mapal enables use of diffusers in open air basins, using a patented covering of the basin. Its solution makes it unnecessary to build pools with a concrete floor in order to use the gentle bubbles system, thus enabling dramatic cost-savings.

“In this way we reduce energy consumption by almost 70% in comparison to top layer airing systems,” says Zeev Fisher, one of the founders and the VP Business Development of Mapal. The Company’s technology is installed in the wastewater treatment facility in Israel’s Ramat Hasharon, which treats 10,000 cube meters of wastewater every day, “And there we achieved an energy saving of almost 40%,” says Fisher. Additionally, the Company has systems installed in Netanya, which treats 40,000 cube meters per day, and is in the final stages of an agreement with a large water utility in the UK, as well as in negotiations with a facility which treats 200,000 cube meters per day, and negotiations for the upgrading of 18 facilities in Lima, Peru.

Up to date, Mapal has raised about $3 million in investments, more then half a million of which was invested by the founders, and is today entering a third round of investment, of $5 million, in order to fund projects.

Both of these companies target different segments in the wastewater purification arena, but they have an important common ground. For one thing, both claim that their solutions can be implemented on working facilities, without the need to suspend activity, and with the existing systems staying on as backup for some time.

The second thing they have in common is the method of financing. Both companies have selected a financing system in which the companies themselves fund the system for the facility, getting their pay through the savings that the new solution brings to the facility. In this way the facility is saved having to raise funds to upgrade its system.

These two approaches make entry into agreements with water utilities, which are often conservative and risk-averse, much easier and smoother.

Article appearing courtesy Israel NewTech.

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