Australian-owned company Aerofloat has developed and patented a unique Dissolved Air Floatation technology that treats greywater and industrial wastewater more cost-effectively than ever before.
Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) is a well-known water treatment process that creates microscopic bubbles to trap contaminates and float them to the water’s surface. In traditional systems, the waste material then has to be removed from the surface by large and expensive mechanical scrapers. The patented Aerofloat system cuts the cost of the process significantly by using hydraulics to automatically funnel the floated waste away from the top of the specially shaped treatment tank.
The system was initially developed for use on houseboats, following the development of an Australian Standard in 2009 for greywater treatment on vessels travelling on inland waters, which the South Australian Environment Protection Agency (EPA) soon used as the basis for new legislation. Its invention was the pinnacle of chemical engineer Ray Anderson’s 40-year career in water pollution and treatment, which took him from the EPA to his own businesses. Anderson came up with the idea while consulting on a greywater discharge problem from houseboats on the Murray River, but liked it so much he decided to start a company with his son Michael and daughter Katie to take it further.
From houseboats to factories
Aerofloat (Australia) Pty Ltd initially focused only on the houseboat industry, offering the only houseboat wastewater treatment system to have undergone rigorous certification testing that passed the discharge standards of AS 4995-2009. The Aerofloat system is ideal for this application due to its light weight, affordability and choice of sizes. Eliminating the need for containing greywater or pumping it out at disposal facilities, Aerofloat gives houseboat owners greater freedom to travel, requires no storage and cuts the fuel costs otherwise incurred by travelling to and from pumping stations.
It comes in various sizes and is suitable for treating greywater for houseboats at rates from 200 litres per hour (l/hr) up to 3000 l/hr (with multiple 750 l/hr devices) and for houseboats and ships with two berths up to 500.
The company later received a Commercialisation Australia grant with which to develop, test and commercialise a larger model of the Aerofloat product suitable for industrial applications. The A$720,000 project was funded 50% by Aerofloat and 50% by the government, and led to the development of the Aerofloat 3500, capable of treating 3,500 l/hr. This project subsequently led to the development of models capable of treating up to 50,000 l/hr.
These larger systems open up new markets for Aerofloat, in treating both residential greywater and low volumes of industrial wastewater. Larger Aerofloat models can be used to treat waste from high-pressure water cleaners, often used to clean mining equipment; bilge water from marine vessels; water from car washes; rainwater from large areas contaminated with solids, oils, fats and greases; and wastewater from food processors, commercial laundries and small manufacturing facilities prior to discharge to sewers.
In applications such as these, Aerofloat systems offer a simpler and lower-cost alternative to traditional industrial water treatment processes.
“We’re focusing on industrial wastewater treatment, and larger-scale greywater treatment for reuse,” says Anderson.
“We can process wastewater from all types of industries, particularly in the food industry where the manufacturing and processing creates a lot of oils and greases in the process wastewater. These can cause huge problems further down the line, so it’s very important to get the grease out of the wastewater before it’s discharged – but this is easier said than done, meaning thousands of small restaurants, fast food outlets, fish and chip shops etc. currently use ineffective ways of cleaning their waste. We want to change that.”
Aerofloat is now at the stage of commercialising the industrial-scale technology and establishing its global business model, in which all component manufacture will be done in China, for export to Australia, the EU and the US.
“We’re now in the final stage of entering the US market,” says Anderson. “The US Environment Protection Agency is stricter about discharging small volumes of polluted water than the EPAs of other countries, so there is a lot of opportunity there for us. A company called Process Wastewater Technologies will be our distributor.”
Aerofloat is also looking into opportunities in the UK, as well as targeting fast-developing countries such as India and China on account of their water shortages in some areas. Anderson explains that greywater treating and recycling systems such as Aerofloat’s could help cities such as Mumbai use limited water supplies more efficiently.
But for 2014 at least, Aerofloat will be focused primarily on securing high-profile work in Australia. At the time of speaking, the company has received verbal confirmation of a number of significant projects in the country: one for a large bakery whose parent company has more than 160 food manufacturing facilities across Australia and New Zealand; one to treat greywater at a mine site in Western Australia; one for a cheese manufacturer; and one for an industrial laundry company.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel in these industries, but the way we treat wastewater has an attraction for a number of people and companies, and obviously it’s a more affordable, and therefore competitive, product,” remarks Anderson.
He adds that, several years down the line, he’d like to see Aerofloat become a global supplier of wastewater treatment systems – particularly as more countries introduce stricter water treatment legislation for houseboats and more generally. It seems the world can only continue to make its water cleaner and safer, assuring a clear path forward for Aerofloat and its peers.