When discussing the emerging green sector of the economy, the focus often shifts to its energy component. Solar panels, wind turbines and biomass energy generation come to mind.
Yet, a critically important part of any environmental conversation is waste management. The industry has been around since the dawn of civilization, yet could never be labelled archaic. A constant stream of innovation through the ages has seen to that.
A major Canadian provider of waste management solutions is Terrapure Environmental, a company headquartered in Burlington, Ont. with facilities from coast-to-coast.
By its own admission, Terrapure’s goal is not always centered on developing new technology. Instead, the company often leverages existing technology to achieve effective, cost-efficient methods for clients to operate in a more sustainable manner.
A prime example is providing the ways and means for a plant to separate its waste and salvage what parts of it are still valuable. To this end, Terrapure has introduced a centrifuge; a machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents and separates liquids from solids, in addition to separating hydrocarbons from water in the liquid phase.
A bonus for a variety of businesses, the centrifuge has been particularly beneficial to Terrapure’s petrochemical and refinery clients.
“Businesses have the opportunity to look at their waste as a resource and use the recovered resources as a means for a more self-sufficient operation,” said Todd Smith, vice-president of environmental solutions for Terrapure’s Central Canada division.
“Rather than sludge from product tanks being sent for disposal and all value lost, hydrocarbons can be returned to the customer’s process, thus recovering that value and, at the same time significantly reducing disposal costs because waste volumes are reduced.”
Centrifugation, in itself, is not a new technology. Terrapure, however, has refined the process and accelerated its effectiveness.
A centrifuge is basically a machine with a rotating container that separates liquids from solids through a series of rapid rotations.
The Terrapure centrifuges can process up to 100,000 litres of material per hour and, in doing so, reduce solid-liquid and liquid-liquid waste volumes by 65 to 95 per cent.
To explain to operation’s output, Terrapure presents a scenario where a client has eight million litres of slurry/water mix that needs to be removed and processed. Over a six-day period, the centrifuges reduce the volume of waste requiring transportation and disposal by 92 per cent to 600 dry tonnes.
The return on investment in centrifugation is going to obviously be positive. By treating waste onsite, the client recovers waste materials and reduces transportation and disposal costs.
The Terrapure system solved a problem facing a refinery client that noticed deficiencies in three onsite settling tanks storing heavy slurry oil. A silicone and paraffin catalyst, used in the refining process, was building up and hindering the tanks’ ability to efficiently separate the heavy oil.
The refinery approached Terrapure, who analyzed the situation and came up with a customized solution.
By jet mixing the contents of the holding tanks with a Gamma Jet pump and nozzles, operators could pump the solids and semi-solid contents out of the settling tank. The remaining material, with its significantly reduced volume of solids, was disposed of separately.
Terrapure’s onsite centrifuge-based sludge treatment process has a relatively small footprint of approximately 100 square metres. Therefore, it is easily set up on the customer’s site without any disruption to their day-to-day operations.
Once the sludge is processed, the equipment is cleaned then dismantled and removed from the customer’s location, leaving virtually no impact to the site.
“Time frame is dependent on size and scope of the project,” Smith said, “but an onsite centrifuge operation generally takes about one week to mobilize and set up, in order to be ready to process material.” He adds that it takes roughly the same amount of time to demobilize and move the system.
Terrapure’s vision is to be the trusted partner and provider of the most innovative industrial environmental solutions.
“All of our solutions are designed to be ethical, safe, cost-effective, reliable and compliant in an ever-changing regulatory environment,” Smith points out. “With a relentless drive to expand the solutions we are able to offer our customers, we continually search for new technologies and new ways to recover value from waste.”