June 27, 2022 – Water quality and re-use opportunities have improved greatly over the recent years, apace with shortage of clean water. Wastewater treatment plants generally use coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection methods to treat water. Unfortunately, the results from these methods are not as effective. They often fail to control pathogen outbreaks efficiently, or the quality of product water varies with feed water quality. Swirltex President & Founder, Peter Christou, solved these problems by finding an efficient solution for tough wastewater streams. Hence, he came up with the innovative membrane system where solids and liquids are separated based on buoyancy.
With an environmental engineering background, Peter has been the problem solver in regards to environmental sustainability and water treatment. He previously worked with ceramic membranes in the oil and gas industry. These membranes are convenient because oil residue can easily be removed with high strain chemicals. However, this produced poor results with significant reduction in flux and low quality permeate. He took on the challenge and tried to think of ways to solve this. At that time the industry standard was to make membranes out of a material which rejected oil. Peter on the other hand, started to think about ways to prevent oil from touching the membranes.
Peter took a different approach compared to conventional methods by using hydraulics to spin the water. This pushed the oil to the center and kept it away from the sides of the membranes. Surprisingly, there was not much information about this process on the internet. He started experimenting with membranes in his garage with his kids and made a huge discovery. The technology was able to succeed in oil-water separation but had yet to explore other potential applications. Wastewater is highly contaminated, very difficult to treat, and some streams are considered non-reusable. Peter entered this niche market with a revolutionary technology that facilitates water re-use in applications where it would normally be impossible.
Peter’s first challenge was to find a way to keep wastewater clean enough to be re-used. He injected air to enhance the buoyancy of contaminants, then inducing the spiral flow, separating it from the permeate. This way gas/solids/oil will flow through the center of the membrane tube and water flows along the membrane surface. He was experimenting on a Saturday with wastewater treatment, where his method led to significantly higher flux, which surprised Peter. He looked in the bucket and found the concentrated solids floating and he was extracting liquids based on buoyancy.
In 2015, the idea became a reality and Swirltex was born. It was time to test the technology on a larger scale. Swirltex had a breakthrough opportunity to apply the technology at the Concordia Research Station in Antarctica. It would be an understatement to say that the technology worked–it was incredibly successful. “Swirltex made history at Antarctica’s Concordia station after its water treatment system became the highest altitude operating membrane plant in the world,” said Phil Heindenreich from Global News. With this technology, Swirltex transformed wastewater into usable water at an altitude where many other technologies had failed before. “What we’ve done is really set new environmental standards for stations operating in Antarctica,” said Peter.
In the beginning, the company focused on water re-use applications. Over the years, Swirltex has unlocked new doors in treating industrial wastewater. There is high demand for an effective and environmentally friendly solution. Swirltex is ready to take on a challenge of treating more complex wastewater streams with high concentrations of contaminants. Swirltex was awarded a project to supply our patented “Buoyancy Enhanced Membrane Filtration” technology for produced water treatment. This partnership is with ARC Resources Ltd., a leading Canadian energy producer in the Montney region. The project is valued at $3 million with the potential upside for scale up at higher treatment volumes. This partnership showcases the value Swirltex has to offer in treating the toughest wastewater streams.