Last week, during the 6th edition of the Luxembourg Green Business Summit, APATEQ won the Green Innovation Award for its MarinePaq product. Our team met with Birgit Prochnow, Senior Marketing & Communication Manager, to discuss the innovation APATEQ brings to the table, but also the future projects of the company located in Luxembourg.
Can you tell us more about your product? What's the real innovation?
APATEQ’s scrub water treatment system “MarinePaq” is the green and cost-efficient one-stop solution for the treatment of wastewater resulting from the washing of exhaust gases generated during combustion in the engines of large ships. The MarinePaq can be implemented as an on-board or onshore installation. For the latter, APATEQ combines field proven membrane filtration technology with unique process technologies, setting new standards in terms of performance, quality, safety and economic value as well as ecological efficiency. Effluent from the MarinePaq is suitable for recirculation or direct discharge into the open sea, coastal area and harbour, meeting toughest international legislation.
Scrub water is typically highly contaminated with heavy metals, hydrocarbons and soot produced during the combustion of heavy bunker oil typically used in large ships. Current treatment technologies available on the market, such as hydro-cyclones and centrifuges, are often overstrained with scrub water, especially in terms of eliminating the tiny lightweight soot particles that act as carriers for hydrocarbons. APATEQ excels above other technologies available on the market by combining field proven membrane technology with innovative process technologies, ensuring a reliable, failure-free operation at low operation costs. By means of APATEQ’s MarinePaq, even the smallest particles are reliably removed, providing an effluent that allows a direct discharge into the sea, coastal areas and harbour according to present legislation. The membranes used for the treatment excel by a lifetime beyond five years before they have to be thoroughly cleansed or exchanged. Optimized membrane performance combined with constant automatic backwash allows effortless maintenance procedures with long intervals. Sludge resulting from the treatment process is compacted by an integrated chamber filter press and safely disposed of onshore at appropriate facilities, such as landfill sites. The MarinePaq is designed for a 24/7 operation with a highest degree of automation.
What were the challenges you had to face when creating this new product?
We have developed a product, the MarinePaq onshore, that did not exist in that form before. We, therefore, had to create the market for such a product. As a new player in the maritime world it was a challenge to convince the customer of our capabilities and products, especially without references in that market to refer to.
Furthermore, we are facing a very conservative market. Current maritime wastewater treatment technologies on board ships exist on the market for a very long time and so far their performance was accepted, even if they were either cost or energy consuming and most often they were constituted out of a multitude of independent modules and not so seamlessly integrated as our system.
In addition, the current market players are in the business for a long time as well. We need to convince our potential clients to choose a young company with a better and new technology instead.
How many people worked on the project? What about regulation?
Our entire team worked on the development of the MarinePaq: from the CEO, CTO, process engineers, construction engineer, software engineer, electrician and technicians as well as the sales and marketing team, all contributed to the successful market introduction of the product.
Shipping is a global industry. Running with heavy bunker oil, shipping fleets produce emissions harming the fragile ecosystem of the sea and coastal areas of many regions worldwide. Consequently, tougher legislation on emission started to be put in place, such as the IMO’s (International Maritime Organization) resolution to limit the sulphur content of marine fuel down to 0.1% in the ECAs (Emission Control Areas such as, among others, North Sea and English Channel, Baltic Sea). These are regions where neighbouring states have shown that emissions to air have particular impacts on human health and the environment. In order to comply with these regulations, shipping companies can switch to low sulphur fuel or install devices such as scrubber systems for the purification of exhaust gases resulting from heavy bunker oil usage. The latter is mostly used in practice today as low sulphur oil is more expensive than heavy bunker oil and, besides, back-fitting the engine of the vessel to run on low sulphur oil would mean substantial investment costs for ship owners. Consequently, IMO has foreseen limiting values for the scrub water in terms of pH, PAH and turbidity before discharging it into the sea. This makes a certain kind of treatment necessary. Existing regulations put into place by the IMO or the local governments are subject to steady tightening. Limiting values for discharge into the sea will be decreased to minimum levels of overall pollution, meaning that scrub water treatment systems that can fulfil existing regulations may not be sufficient in the future.
The performance of APATEQ’s MarinePaq is in full compliance with present legislation and can be easily adapted to meet future tighter legislation, as the modular design of the system allows not only capacity increases but also performance increases.
What's next for APATEQ? Are you working on the development of other products?
APATEQ is actively pursuing opportunities in the market of leachate treatment, meaning treating the wastewater generated at landfill sites. It’s “LeachPaq” combines proprietary process technologies with high-efficiency ultrafiltration and activated carbon filtration. Landfill leachate consists of liquids created by organic and inorganic waste decomposition and rainwater seeping into the landfill. Typically, leachate is loaded for example with organic matter (COD, BOD) or ammonium. To protect surrounding soil, ground water and surface water, safe disposal of the leachate is undeniably an environmental challenge. By means of our membrane-based technology, the contaminants can be reliably removed at low operational costs.
APATEQ is currently upgrading a ultrafiltration system for leachate treatment in Luxembourg, managed by the regional authority SIGRE at the central landfill in Buchholz-Muertendall.