Firms tout oxidation system for clean water

FORT COLLINS – Advanced Energy Industries Inc. and Symbios Technologies LLC are edging closer to creating a water-purification system that uses oxidation instead of chemicals to treat industrial wastewater.

Advanced Energy (Nasdaq: AEIS) and Symbios Technologies, both based in Fort Collins, have been working for nearly two years to develop their Tubular Plasma Reactor. Advanced Energy has contributed its cutting-edge power supply to the project, while Symbios Technologies has developed advanced oxidation technology.

The idea is to minimize the need for chlorine and other chemicals while reducing costs for water treatment, including in hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking” involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground to release natural gas and oil from shale formations.

The technology could improve treatment of industrial wastewater, such as that produced during fracking, allowing that wastewater to be reused and reducing the need for more fresh water.

Oil and gas companies face high costs to recycle wastewater because they must remove such things as carcinogenic hydrocarbons, said Symbios Technologies co-founder and chief executive Justin Bzdek, who also co-founded biofuel company Blue Sun Biodiesel.

Symbios Technologies hopes to address some of those challenges by using an advanced process that oxidizes organic and microbial contaminants in water. Because this process doesn’t require chemicals, it reduces water-treatment costs.

Companies involved in industrial and oil and gas wastewater treatment also are working on the project, funded by a $1 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation. The project also is funded by an additional $1 million in private- and public-sector grants and contracts.

“Unless you’re investing in new technologies, you’re not going to be there when those technologies take off,” said Skip Larson, Advanced Energy’s director of product marketing.

Advanced Energy’s power supply equipment, already used on solar panels, provides direct electrical current to a Symbios Technologies reactor that converts electric energy to chemical energy to oxidize contaminants in the water.

Developed by Advanced Energy’s thin-films division, the company’s equipment delivers electricity in precise intervals. It also gives measurements that help operators scale water treatment.

“We’re delivering controlled energy, repeatedly and reliably, to this element that’s then creating a discharge that cleans the water,” said Larson, adding that about seven Advanced Energy employees have dedicated their time to the project.

The technology has uses beyond the oil and gas industry. It can also be used in municipal water-treatment plants and coal-fired power plants. In municipal systems, the technology could purify water containing normally difficult-to-remove pharmaceutical and personal-care products. In coal-fired power plants, which use water to cool generation equipment, the technology could eliminate the need for using hazardous chemicals, which corrode equipment and pose workplace safety and environmental hazards, Larson said. It also helps prevent the buildup of bacteria in cooling water, which can destroy power generation equipment.

Symbios’ device builds off research done at Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin as well as by the U.S. Navy.

The startup, founded in 2008 and employing seven full- and part-time workers, has developed a prototype that it hopes to field test and sell in the next year or two.

“It’s been successful in the lab,” Bzdek said about the technology. “It has been shown to be very effective for treating organic contaminants and bacteria.”

Although the research partnership will wrap up at the end of the year, Symbios Technologies has signed several agreements with other companies, including leaders in industrial wastewater treatment, to commercialize the product.

FORT COLLINS – Advanced Energy Industries Inc. and Symbios Technologies LLC are edging closer to creating a water-purification system that uses oxidation instead of chemicals to treat industrial wastewater.

Advanced Energy (Nasdaq: AEIS) and Symbios Technologies, both based in Fort Collins, have been working for nearly two years to develop their Tubular Plasma Reactor. Advanced Energy has contributed its cutting-edge power supply to the project, while Symbios Technologies has developed advanced oxidation technology.

The idea is to minimize the need for chlorine and other chemicals while reducing costs for water treatment, including in hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking” involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground to release natural gas and oil from shale formations.

The technology could improve treatment of industrial wastewater, such as that produced during fracking, allowing that wastewater to be reused and reducing the need for more fresh water.

Oil and gas companies face high costs to recycle wastewater because they must remove such things as carcinogenic hydrocarbons, said Symbios Technologies co-founder and chief executive Justin Bzdek, who also co-founded biofuel company Blue Sun Biodiesel.

Symbios Technologies hopes to address some of those challenges by using an advanced process that oxidizes organic and microbial contaminants in water. Because this process doesn’t require chemicals, it reduces water-treatment costs.

Companies involved in industrial and oil and gas wastewater treatment also are working on the project, funded by a $1 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation. The project also is funded by an additional $1 million in private- and public-sector…