A Year of Conferences & Events, 2015 in Review
Oasys Water’s Director of Solutions R&D, MaryTheresa Pendergast, gears up for exciting conferences in 2016 by looking back at highlights from last year’s events.
As we begin a new year, I find myself looking back on the great interactions we had with customers and fellow technology companies in 2015, many of which occurred at the industry conferences and meetings we attended. Conferences are a great opportunity to hear about the needs of our customers in managing their wastewaters, learn about what other companies and researchers are doing, and share information about our own technology and products. In the second half of 2015 we attended four key conferences in the water treatment world: DesalTech, The International Desalination Association (IDA) World Congress, The Water Environment Federation Technology (WEFTEC) Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference, and The International Water Conference (IWC).
DesalTech & IDA World Congress
DesalTech 2015—The International Conference on Emerging Water Desalination Technologies in Municipal and Industrial Applications—was held in San Diego last August and was co-located with the IDA World Congress on Desalination and Water Reuse. DesalTech was a great opportunity to bring together those in academia and the private sector focused on developing novel technologies for desalination. The majority of the conference focused on forward osmosis (FO) and membrane distillation. Topics included technology fundamentals, emerging markets and opportunities, pilot demonstration results, and commercialization efforts of new companies, like Oasys. My talk—titled “Going Big with FO”—laid out the path to commercialization that we have taken. After a brief introduction into the Membrane Brine Concentrator (MBC) technology platform, I took the audience through our scale-up efforts, which began with development of individual process components (such as our “best in class” spiral wound FO element) and led to pilot demonstrations first in the U.S. oil and gas market and then in the Chinese power market. I discussed our customer education and partner enablement approaches that allowed us to enter the Chinese power industry and, finally, the deployment of our first commercial ClearFlo MBC system at the Changxing Power Plant.
The audience showed true excitement, both in the formal Q&A and later as I mingled with fellow attendees. After hearing about FO as an idea and technical possibility for years, the community was ready to hear a successful commercial story. This was also a great opportunity to differentiate the MBC System from other FO technologies that are focused on treating low salinity waters. Unlike those, the MBC treats high salinity streams beyond what RO can handle. We see RO as a complementary technology since we pick up where it leaves off and can achieve substantial water recovery (>80%) treating RO concentrate streams, more than what many thermal evaporators can do and at a lower cost. It is fair to say that the Oasys commercial success would have won the superlative for ‘most popular’ with our process flow diagram from the Changxing power plant installation (compliments to Sarah Geib) being shown in a total of three presentations as a case study of FO in a brine concentration application.
The Oasys Water team posed for a picture at their booth during IDA World Congress.
One of these presentations was given by Tom Pankratz of WDR who gave a great discussion on zero liquid discharge (ZLD). The two main take aways from his talk were (1) customers will only go to ZLD when required to since near-ZLD is often enough brine minimization and the additional cost to go to full ZLD is significant and (2) pretreatment is extremely important to get right when designing for ZLD and near-ZLD because of the extreme concentration factors being performed. The latter is a really important point and not one lost on our team at Oasys. It is the up-front unit processes that the downstream steps rely on and good pretreatment allows for an overall flexible and robust solution. This two-day deep dive on technical topics was great preparation for the following week at IDA where we had a chance to meet with customers and technology integrators both at our expo booth and in another session, where Zac Helm, our Applied Research Program Manager, spoke about the fundamentals of FO and the range of applications where it has potential. Overall, our team had a lot of valuable interactions, spread the word about the Oasys MBC, and left with exciting connections and sales leads.
The WEFTEC meeting took place in Chicago in October. The WEFTEC community had a slightly more municipal focus than IDA and gave us a chance to reach a different audience. With more run time under our belts at Changxing, this also gave us the opportunity to dive into the details of our system operations. I gave a talk in the FO Session at this meeting, which was effectively the distilled version of the DesalTech line-up. It included a couple of technology introductions from academia followed by a handful of company presentations. In this talk my focus was much more on the Oasys MBC as a commercial product. The audience here was interested in the fact that we already have a commercial installation and wanted to get down to the specifics of our system cost, energy requirements, and operation and maintenance. It was great to engage with such a knowledgeable group and paint a picture of what FO can achieve and would cost for a given customer at the industrial scale. In the municipal market, brine concentration is considered more of a “future technology” need. Today, regulation is not in place to require complete water recycle in this market, but brine management needs are anticipated as water scarcity grows. This was a bit different than many of the industrial customers we met at IDA and IWC that are looking for brine minimization and near or complete ZLD solutions today.
Left: A 3D model of an Oasys ClearFlo MBC system was the main attraction at the Oasys Water booth during WEFTEC. Right: The giant WEFTEC banners inside Chicago’s McCormick Convention Center welcomed over 25,000 guests from around the globe for the biggest water quality event in the U.S.
International Water Conference (IWC)
The IWC took place in November in Orlando (not a terrible time to visit the “Sunshine State”). This annual meeting is a great opportunity to get together with technology providers, regulators, and customers to share recent project successes, process designs and integrations, and operational methods and learnings. This was the first presentation where we did a deep dive on the full process design and project execution of our installed MBC, which is treating the blowdown stream from a flue gas desulphurization (FGD) system at the Changxing Power Plant. The case study, presented by Marek Nowosielski, our Senior VP of Engineering, was well received and brought a lot of excitement from the audience. We described the requirements for turn-down and the huge variability within the water quality projections and in current operation. This discussion was well placed since earlier talks in the session described in great detail the challenges of FGD, the many factors that impact blowdown quality, and the severity of fluctuations seen. The MBC System we designed includes multiple trains of membranes that enable significant turn-down in both flow and salinity. Since the plant started up, we have seen far lower salinity that even the range we designed for. The biggest success has been that even with the plant operating far out of our wide design window, our system has continuously treated the stream and achieved recoveries exceeding the design requirement. The ability to handle these large fluctuations with the simplicity of a modular membrane-based system has been received as one of the key advantages of the Oasys MBC System over a traditional thermal evaporator.
Members of Team Oasys (from left to right: MaryTheresa Pendergast, Marek Nowosielski, Gordon Carter, John Tracy) gathered together at IWC after Marek’s session on FGD Wastewater.
As we ramp up for another busy year, I look forward to more opportunities to share the Oasys story with new audiences and future customers (like next week, February 3-5 at the Energy, Utility & Environment Conference (EUEC) in San Diego).
Written By MaryTheresa Pendergast, Director of Solutions R&D
MaryTheresa has been a part of the Oasys team for over two years and currently leads the Solutions R&D team in innovating and expanding the Oasys technology platform. MT has dual BS degrees in Physics and Environmental Engineering from Providence College and Columbia University. She also earned a MS and PhD at University of California, Los Angeles where she was developing novel membrane materials and water treatment processes. While she misses the LA sun, she enjoys living in Boston, working with a great team at Oasys, and spending time with her family on the South Shore.