In many developing countries, there continues to be challenges with clean water supplies. Recently, Cape Town, South Africa captured headlines when it narrowly averted running out of water this summer. In another current example, India is suffering what is widely regarded as the worst water crisis in its history.
If only water scarcity were the exception and not the rule in so many of these global regions, then the prospect of a “day zero” would not be such a looming threat. But the fact remains that unless these communities arrive at affordable, sustainable, and long-term solutions, their clean water reserves may be on the brink of exhaustion once more.
Some government and international organizations are stepping in to address these water and sanitation challenges. With new investments in infrastructure and proven solutions, there is plenty of opportunity for companies around the world to implement innovation and make a real difference in water-deprived zones.
One of these successful export stories is that of H2Flow Equipment Inc. As WaterTAP reported in 2015, the Vaughan, Ontario company successfully implemented its solution in Gabon, along the Atlantic coast of Central Africa. H2Flow worked closely with the country’s government to build the first full-scale centralized wastewater treatment plant in the region. Since that time, the company has grown its presence in Africa.
From Gabon to Morocco
“We have been scouting opportunities in the African market for at least five years,” says Michael Albanese, President of H2Flow. “When we began, we hired a regional sales director to assist with export development, particularly in Central Africa.”
This investment paid off for the company early on, helping H2Flow secure the Gabon project in 2012. Entry into the region gave H2Flow further exposure to additional opportunities in Africa.
“It was an evolution: We identified this opportunity and gradually gained traction in this new marketplace,” Albanese says. “Gabon grew our African network, and we learned that there were opportunities in nearby countries. So, with Gabon as our proof of concept, we began to target Morocco.”
The Moroccan government was investing money in infrastructure for wastewater plants and facilities in an effort to better protect its water resources. H2Flow began submitting bids on projects, attending meetings, making visits to trade shows, and joining delegations to meet possible clientele. At the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) on climate change, the company met a Moroccan dairy plant owner. And, in July 2017, H2Flow successfully secured a €1.4-million contract to provide a full-scale wastewater treatment plant for Copag, Morocco’s largest dairy processor.
A competitive edge
In the past year, H2Flow has determined the engineering and design specifications, and is well underway with manufacturing the equipment, with completion slated for this fall. The company is now in the process of delivering its product to Morocco, where the dairy treatment facility is currently under construction.
H2Flow is supporting Copag’s goal to produce clean effluent. “In Morocco, Copag will be directly discharging into a major body of water,” Albanese says. “In this case, the rules and regulations around effluent quality are quite stringent.”
Albanese attributes winning this project to his company’s experience and technical competence. “We were able to transpose a lot of our experience in the food and beverage markets, primarily in Ontario and the rest of Canada,” he says. “The biggest industrial sector we serve is the food industry, and we have done that for more than 20 years.”
“One of our first clients in the dairy industry was Chapman’s Ice Cream in the town of Markdale,” he says. “In 2001, the decentralized wastewater pre-treatment system we built was the first installation of its kind in Ontario for the dairy industry.”
Before awarding the contract to H2Flow, Copag was able to visit similar installations in operation, and its team was convinced that H2Flow had not only the experience, but the technical qualifications, too.
H2Flow’s solution has a unique process for treating effluent. The company’s process consists of physical chemical treatment, followed by biological treatment, which involves a sequencing batch reactor. In traditional systems, the sludge from the biological process is put through an aerobic digester, which requires a defined footprint and certain energy levels to stabilize the biosolids.
“Most of our competition uses this traditional method,” Albanese says. “Instead, we return part of the effluent to the start of the plant in the first tank, where it operates under anoxic, rather than aerobic, conditions. The sludge mixes with the fresh batch of incoming wastewater where there are nutrients, creating an anoxic condition, and breaking down contaminants without expending energy. Any excess input will continue into the treatment process.”
“Since Chapman’s, we’ve installed a few dozen similar systems in Ontario,” Albanese says. “We are thrilled that, using this system, we can help bring clean water to African communities.”
Working with WaterTAP
In addition to its African initiative, H2Flow is looking to develop and expand its product line. To accelerate this process, the company is working with WaterTAP through its Growth Catalyst program.
“We have recently developed a horizontal version of our proprietary TILT process called the HILT, which has more of a biological treatment focus,” Albanese says. “We wanted to create an economy version of the TILT that, though less powerful, has an easier setup, is faster and more convenient, and requires less infrastructure.”
The Growth Catalyst program has enabled H2Flow to work with a third-party engineering firm to help design the product’s new configuration. “The consultant’s predictive analysis experience allowed us to run simulations on that configuration, and extract meaningful results,” he says. “The project is still early, but WaterTAP’s program is supporting us towards pilot project scale up faster than we could do on our own.”