Sander van de Lagemaat
Director General
OPC Ambienta
View from the Top

New Technologies for Soil and Water Remediation

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 10:41

Q: What are the main causes of contamination that OPC Ambiental has identified in its soil remediation business segment?

A: The main cause of contamination we have identified is a result of gasoline theft from pipelines and the resulting oil spills. PEMEX is our main client, and once these spills are detected, action is swiftly taken. Unfortunately, municipalities and state governments lack the funds to invest in environmental initiatives, especially in soil remediation. I believe this is a responsibility that the federal government must address. Within the federal government, different entities had to deal with their own contamination problems and seek oversight from SEMARNAT, but during this process there were budgeting barriers and a lack of technical capabilities. As a result, SEMARNAT now funds the remediation of contaminated sites, an approach which promotes increased collective knowledge and better results.

Q: What are the different technologies available for soil remediation, and how have these been successfully implemented?

A: We carried out an interesting project with PEMEX in the Salamanca region where we had to deal with a difficult and high concentration of contaminants. Luckily, we completed this project in a shorter period than initially planned. Time can be a constraint when working with the public sector or PEMEX due to the budget cycles. Soil remediation and other similar projects are time consuming, since bioventing requires 9-12 months of treatment time, and in the case of complex contaminants like heavy metals, the treatment can last for several years. There are different ways of treating contaminated soil. The first is by excavating and incinerating the land, the second is putting the contaminated soil in a landfill and treating it with nutrients and chemicals, and lastly, there is bioventing, in which we inject nutrients, oxygen, chemicals, and water into the soil, the main advantage being that there is no need to interrupt ongoing activity.

Q: What breakthrough technologies have you incorporated into you water management product portfolio?

A: In many instances, a client may not know what it wants or the type of water quality it deals with; the only thing it knows is that it needs to build a water treatment plant. Prior to building a water plant we carry out in-depth research to measure how much water is being consumed daily, peak times, continuous flow of resources, and contamination levels. Once this information is collected, we design the plant and implement it. One of the breakthroughs we have incorporated into our product portfolio is a mobile water treatment plant. With this plant, apart from treating the water, we also receive realtime information on the water quality, enabling us to better design and accommodate needs of that specific client.

Approximately 95% of the market uses biological water treatment plants, and there are other accepted technologies like reverse osmosis systems, but these require a specific water quality. The MARPOL convention is an international agreement covering pollution prevention of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. When it was signed, companies realized the difficulties of treating waste water from ships, since they had to deal with amounts of salinity in a limited area. In the 1980s, electric pulse technology was introduced to the ships to tackle these problems. OPC Ambiental adapted this technology into a variable pulse system that transmits electrical pulses in accordance with the levels of contaminants, and this gives us a competitive advantage, since we can more accurately predict the end result and guarantee a stable output of water.

Q: Which markets are poised to benefit the most from your services, and how are you positioning yourself in order to capture these new areas of opportunity?

A: The private sector is open to these solutions, and we have worked with the construction industry in malls and large infrastructure projects. Right now a driver in the market is the rising water costs that are impacting a range of industries. Companies in the past would only install a water plant in fear of PROFEPA monitoring, but now they see the advantages of recycling and reusing treated water. One of our competitive advantages is that we have a notable control over the output quality of the water, which makes it easier to recycle and reinsert into the systems. This differs from biological treatment systems where it is difficult to measure the output quality of the water. We are tapping into new markets by offering financed water treatment plants. We offer potential customers the possibility of leasing a plant and afterward they are given the opportunity to buy the plant.