Portable sewage treatment meets everyday needs of exploration sites

Hydroflux Epco's membrane bio reactor technology is suitable for portable operations. Image: Hydroflux Epco

Hydroflux Epco presents a treatment technology that delivers an A-class solution in a plug and play package, proving that a book can’t be judged by its cover.

In the mining world, portability is key to the efficiency of many operations.

Companies often develop a temporary construction site, move from one exploration site to another, or remain in one location for a duration of only five to 10 years.

A Saudi Arabian company, for example, had this foresight when it constructed the Jazan refinery and terminal in the Kingdom’s south-west region in 2014.

The project development and construction required a wastewater treatment concept that could receive domestic sewage from the contractor’s camps and be relocated when the project was finished.

Hydroflux Epco’s associate MENA-Water provided the design, supply, installation and commissioning with start-up for the complete package. It included a tanker station, lifting pumps, screening, grit removal, aeration tanks and containerised membrane bio reactor (MBR) packages.

The MBR technology involves a very fine filter, or a membrane that screens out and stops as many particles as possible from getting held up in the sewage solution.

The follow-on effect is a reduction in suspended solids at the final effluent discharge point. The sewage first passes through screening then into the aeration tank.

“The product then goes into a membrane bioreactor, where the suspended solids and bacteria get filtered out and the final effluent being disinfected with chlorine and UV sterilisation,” Hydroflux Epco general manager, Epco products Paul Cobbin tells Australian Mining.

Though “high tech” is one word to describe the MBR system, it is not easily affected by human error so it provides a robust treatment process.

This is proven by the hundreds of installations over the past couple of decades, according to Cobbin.

The technology is similarly related to reverse osmosis (RO). Where RO is aimed at keeping salt water particles out, the MBR is designed to keep the sludge particle out by holding them back.

“The main thing about MBR is that it’s a portable solution for mine sites, which isn’t as expensive as a permanent plant built for a 30 to 40-year horizon,” Cobbin says. “It uses an entirely different technology, but it construction still upholds our quality build philosophy.”

Though the hi-tech solution would require operators who are technically skilled to check the running of the plant daily, remote monitoring is available. Operators can oversee the operations of the plant on their phone without being on-site.

In fact, all Hydroflux treatment plants for mining are designed with facilities to enable remote operation and monitoring using HyConnect, a platform that offers several levels of remote support.

“The installation is robust, and as we know it, the sewage treatment process is reasonably simple. It’s a shorter process than other biological methods,” Cobbin says.

The MBR solution also takes the form of a packaged plant that is simply bolted to a concrete slab as a pre-fabricated system. Hence, it has a reduced footprint and incurs lower installation costs.

Roadtrain, a 40-cubic-metre plant in a conventional Hydroflux 40-year life product, has a footprint around the 20- to 25-metre mark and can accommodate around 120 people.

An equivalent-size MBR plant would take up a 12-metre shipping container, into which all the equipment is built. This is the largest of the single package plants. Multiple units and configuration accommodate larger populations.

“You can just pick them up, put them on the back of the truck and move them to the next site. The logistical aspects are far more portable than conventional plants,” according to Cobbin.

The MBR range is also significant. The smallest container is comprised of a six-foot (183 centimetre) shipping container, which would look after a exploration camp of around 50 people.

The MBR technology, however, is not restricted in its capacity to accommodate a sizeable mining camp.

Hydroflux has accommodated up to 4000 people with the technology, and in Cobbin’s words, “There isn’t any limit other than the installation cost.”

The MBR, though smaller than the Roadtrain, produces an A-class effluent, which means the wastewater can be reused for a range of purposes such as plant irrigation and revegetation of old mine areas.

Hydroflux’s success is attributed to its team’s extensive knowledge and experience. The company is present in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the United Kingdom, catering to the majority of the industry names across the region.

This article also appears in the October edition of Australian Mining.

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