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The process improvement opportunities of waste

01 July 2019

Rich Matthews explains how companies are using compact treatment technology to pilot new effluent treatment solutions, in a bid to both manage the risks associated with capital investment and to enhance their environmental credentials. 

Food and drink manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their processes – whether to reduce costs, increase throughput, minimise waste, limit energy usage or remain compliant –wastewater treatment is key area where there is scope for process improvement.  

As a wastewater solutions provider, we have seen a significant trend with companies looking to make changes – not only towards more compact treatment systems, but also doing this through a pilot to permanent transition. This allows risks to be more effectively managed – an important consideration given that food and beverage wastewater treatment can be particularly challenging; the potential for seasonal demands and variations in production needs can result in wide ranging effluent streams for companies to deal with.

Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) plant, along with the use of other modular technology for biological and settlement solutions, has played a central role in many pilot trials, providing a way to optimise plant performance (through changes to process or chemistry) and to prove enhancements to existing effluent treatment plants.
Compact, nimble, modular, easy to operate and with a big treatment capacity for its size, DAF technology offers a good solution for on-site waste treatment trials. It has enabled businesses to run pilot systems in parallel, or as a side stream, to their existing plant, with minimal intervention. This is clearly an attractive proposition, but crucially the trial data has also often proven that, with careful attention to installation, the temporary plant can be equally viable as a longer-term solution, which is welcome news for anyone under pressure to improve their wastewater treatment but also facing production space pressures on site.  

Responsive solutions
Often the opportunity to test DAF technology arises as a result of an onsite problem.  For example, we have worked with numerous clients, such as Dartmouth Foods, where the DAF technology was deployed at short notice to overcome an immediate issue of fats, oils and greases (FOGs), due to the overloading of existing grease traps.  With access to a large rental fleet, we were able to deploy a D5 DAF as a responsive solution and it quickly proved successful. Treating just 1.5 m3/hr, it neutralised the effluent, before the FOG, Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and associated Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) were removed. The removed fat was pumped to the mixing tank where it was mixed with other sludges from the site before being pumped into an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility.

This staged approach demonstrated the effectiveness of the solution to Dartmouth Foods, while also providing the option for an additional source of income for the AD feedstock.

While our rental fleet can provide a responsive solution, we have also seen it used to support the upgrading of food product plant.

An example of one company adopting this approach is Euro Quality Lambs (EQL) at its abattoir in Craven Arms, Shropshire. The site has a capacity to process up to 15,000 lamb and sheep carcasses a week, plus onsite boning and further processing facilities, meaning the wastewater is left with high concentrations of ammonia and phosphorus which need to be treated before it is discharged to sewer.

We were first commissioned by EQL to assist with its effluent treatment in 2013, when a D10 DAF plant was installed to assist with TSS compliance. The DAF system provided 94% TSS removals and 79% of settled COD, which greatly boosted the site performance.  However, through the continued support and increased factory production, flows and loads increased which stretched the capacities of the D10. While the chemistry had been fully optimised and removal rates proven, SPS was able to support the upgrade of the plant to a D50 unit in 2017.  This approach supported the increased production at the site, ensured that the effluent plant provides sufficient compliance on the TSS and future proofed production. This was all achieved working within limited space constraints.

For Portsmouth-based Quattro Foods sustainability was a key driver behind it adopting a compact, modular approach. In particular the company needed to more effectively deal with the large amounts of solids and FOG within its effluent and thus improve the quality of its discharge and be equipped to reuse more water. The new system comprising flow balancing, flocculation and Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) for solids separation was installed with limited space, providing a compact and effective effluent treatment solution. This allows Quattro Foods to achieve a consistently cleaner discharge across the large range of products being produced. Not only does this reduce the potential Mogden charges, but by stopping the FOG in the factory, major problems are avoided in the drains and sewers downstream. The system also ensures the compliance risk is effectively managed whilst enhancing complementary environmental sustainability credentials.

EQL, Dartmouth Foods and Quattro are not isolated examples. We are increasingly seeing companies within the food and beverage sectors use these modular, responsive, space efficient solutions to not only deal with an immediate, temporary effluent treatment problem or production demand, but also to find ways to improve their wastewater treatment. They are able to pilot solutions that improve quality of discharge or energy recovery, without putting their day-to-day operations at risk.  

The use of modular pilot systems are, in some instances, capable of becoming the basis for a permanent solution, de-risking the wastewater treatment upgrade process, both from a capital investment and environmental compliance point of view.  Our DAF systems are also complemented by a wider product range, which now includes biological treatment in the use of Moving Bed Bio-Reactor (MBBR) technology. Recognising the need to adopt intensive treatment solutions which will help companies increase production capacity, which is the priority – the pilot to permanent approach to plant optimisation is a trend that’s set to grow.

Rich Matthews is general manager at Siltbuster Process Solutions (SPS).

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