Delivering Solutions for Challenging Industrial Wastewater
Founded in 2008, Saltworks Technologies focuses on industrial desalination and wastewater treatment. This clean technology company designs and builds cutting-edge water treatment systems to be sold or leased to industrial customers all over the world.
The Richmond, British Columbia-based company started with an energy-efficient desalination technology that the chief executive officer had developed, and the industrial sector soon became the obvious direction for Saltworks because that is where it could make the biggest impact with its technology. In an industrial setting, water can be more technically challenging to treat as a result of potential contaminants and the tightening regulations of how companies must manage, treat, and dispose of wastewater. Saltworks has brought to market novel technologies that helps its customers navigate these issues using less energy and at a lower cost.
Working closely with a broad range of industrial customers over the years has enabled Saltworks to develop both expertise and an understanding of the many unique issues that those customers face. Its original desalination technology was a combination of electrochemical and thermal technology, but since then its offerings have expanded to include a range of products for diverse applications.
While sharpening its skill set and adapting to the market over the course of its twelve-year journey, Saltworks has produced a diverse portfolio of innovative water treatment technologies. “We now have multiple products that do different things, allowing us to deliver end-to-end solutions or unit processes for integration into a customer’s overall treatment infrastructure. All of our products incorporate intelligent automation, modular design, and advanced process engineering that provide treatment capabilities and lower total cost than conventional methods,” explained Joshua Zoshi, President of Saltworks Technologies.
Generally, industrial customers have two primary wastewater treatment needs. The first is to reduce the volume of the wastewater to lower disposal costs, and the second is to achieve regulatory compliance, which may also entail volume reduction or removing contaminants from the waste. A third, less common objective is retrieving any valuable material from the wastewater. In mining operations as an example, there might be minerals of value within the wastewater, and the customer will want to extract these. Saltworks is an expert in helping clients overcome these challenges, with approximately forty patents in different areas of the market to provide solutions for complex industrial wastewater.
Saltworks’ flagship products include BrineRefine, a smart chemical softening system, XtremeRO, an advanced reverse osmosis platform, and the SaltMaker, a modern evaporator-crystallizer.
BrineRefine is an intelligently automated chemical softening system. Its key advantage over conventional chemical softening is the ability to adapt to changing wastewater chemistry – a challenge in many industrial applications. It does this by measuring water chemistry and adjusting chemical dosing in real time. This reduces chemical usage, generates less waste sludge, and better protects downstream equipment from scaling. BrineRefine reduces cost and improves treatment reliability in any industry with scaling wastewaters.
XtremeRO is Saltworks’ innovative solution for reducing volume of saline wastewater, or brine. It is based on reverse osmosis, the most widely used desalination technology. However, unlike traditional reverse osmosis, it can concentrate brine to much higher levels and can treat waters with high levels of organics. XtremeRO is therefore ideal for volume reduction of oil and gas produced waters, landfill leachate, food processing wastewater, and other challenging sources.
The SaltMaker product line at Saltworks is made up of modern evaporator crystallizers that further reduce the volume of the wastewater using a novel humidification-dehumidification process. “The SaltMaker was designed from the ground up as a more reliable alternative to traditional evaporators and crystallizers. It will take virtually any wastewater and reduce its volume for much lower cost disposal. It can even squeeze all of the water out, reducing everything else down to a solid,” said Zoshi. The SaltMaker can use waste heat to reduce energy consumption. It also has advanced self-cleaning systems that prevent scaling, corrosion-proof non-metallic materials, and a highly modular design, all of which combine to provide leading reliability for challenging minimal liquid discharge (MLD) or zero liquid discharge (ZLD) applications.
The SaltMaker MultiEffect version of the technology uses a highly energy efficient process that recycles heat internally. This makes it ideal for MLD or ZLD applications with high energy costs, such as remote locations that must ship in diesel. Saltworks sold a treatment plant to a remote mine operating near the subarctic that required an extremely efficient solution.
“They are dewatering their mine, and because it’s so far north, they can’t put that water into a tailings pond. They have to treat it at the mine and then discharge the freshwater directly into the subarctic environment, so it was a very challenging application with really tough environmental regulations,” said Zoshi. Using Saltworks’ systems, customers with particularly problematic situations can operate sustainably and cleanly, and maintain compliance with environmental standards.
The SaltMaker AirBreather is a more recent variation of the SaltMaker MultiEffect. It is a higher capacity version that is well suited to treating waters with volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“Where the AirBreather really shines is that the water being evaporated never directly contacts the atmosphere, so VOCs are safely managed. This is an industry first,” explained Zoshi.
The company tagline at Saltworks is ‘Treating the Toughest Water.’ If a customer can use some type of conventional technology to treat their wastewater, then that is likely the most economic option. However, Saltworks is the answer in cases where customers have difficult-to-treat desalination and wastewater treatment scenarios or have exhausted the more typical alternatives and are not seeing the results they would like.
By focusing its effort on the toughest challenges, the company has built an expert team with unparalleled experience. Saltworks employs roughly seventy people who are dedicated and passionate about delivering solutions for industrial wastewater. The highly technical group is made up of scientists and engineers, and because the company’s entire operation is in-house, it also has a talented team of builders. From research and development to full-scale plant assembly, this is a collaborative effort.
“We all come to work looking forward to solving some of these really challenging problems that the world is facing. And having the opportunity to build some very innovative technology and get it out into the field and actually have it provide benefits to customers,” Zoshi expressed.
Over the years, Saltworks has received recognition from the Canadian Federal Government as well as the British Columbia and Alberta Provincial Governments through technology development grants. As a clean technology company that is focused on water and energy conservation, it is grateful to be located in a country with supportive environmental programs that encourage a real effort toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Going forward, the company hopes to expand into adjacent industrial sectors where it believes its systems can help. For example, because of the usefulness of natural gas as a transitional fuel source between oil and renewable energy, the company is anticipating growth in this industry.
Natural gas extraction releases highly saline water that was originally in the ground. This “produced water” can be reused for further extraction, but when activity slows in an area, the water must be disposed of. Produced water volumes are substantial, and since disposal costs are high in some regions, such as the Marcellus, there is an opportunity to reduce its volume via onsite treatment. Saltworks has the expertise to help those companies reduce their produced water volume and make it easier and more cost-effective to manage.
Saltworks is also advancing technology for the lithium mining sector. Lithium is typically transported to a remote facility to be refined after being extracted from the ground. Moving the raw material to the refining plant is an expensive step in the process. In partnership with another company, Saltworks can provide these operations with technology that enables them to refine the lithium at the mining site, significantly reducing their overhead and improving the profitability of the customer.
Another application is treating for polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Released In 2019, a film titled Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo, told the story of a major scandal related to this class of chemical compounds that are extremely dangerous to human health, and are often found in landfill runoff. PFAS is in many household items from carpet to no-stick cookware and is a so-called ‘forever chemical’ because it tends to stay around.
Saltworks is anticipating upcoming regulations related to these compounds and expects that treating wastewater in this area will become a major opportunity to positively impact the health of affected people.
“We’re excited for the future. It almost seems like every month we come across a new inquiry from some industry somewhere in the world. It’s definitely a changing landscape, and we are committed to developing and delivering innovative and economic solutions that enable industries to successfully manage their wastewater.”