In this CBN exclusive, Editor Robin Hayes speaks to South African entrepreneur and former Western Cape resident, Chris Clemes about his ground breaking technological solution which alleviates the problem of FOG (fat, oil & grease) sewer blockages and disposal, creating value to a valueless product while saving costs, water, transportation and the environment.
As an added bonus, the containerised, modular plant that is the heart of the system is manufactured right here in Paarl by metal fabrication specialists Fabrinox and soon to be exported worldwide.
THE problem faced by water and waste water utilities the world over is that of the disposal and or illegally dumped FOG entering sewer systems, which often leads to the formation of sewer blocking ‘fatbergs’ (see box below).
After several years of development, a solution have has been created through a patented technology developed by UK based Eco Clarity, the company formed by South African, Chris Clemes.
While the pioneering development work and the initial target market for this technology is the UK, strong interest has been shown by European utilities, especially in The Netherlands where a pilot plant has been operating for more than a year, and ‘back home’ by Western Cape municipalities.
All food service establishments (FSE) – restaurants, cafeterias, fast food outlets, industrial kitchens etc., and filling stations are required by law to incorporate grease traps into their waste water systems as a preventative measure to stop FOG from entering the downstream sewer system and wastewater treatment plant. FOG is collected in their Grease Trap, and this Grease Trap must be cleaned regularly to avoid overflowing into the downstream sewer network. This waste is collected by hauliers and is referred to as Grease Trap Waste (GTW).
The disposal of this waste is as problematic here in South Africa as it is in the UK, although the volumes are much greater there and the distances between a declining numbers of certified disposal sites presents logistical and financial issues and has led to illegal dumping. This is where the Eco Clarity technology GTW consolidation hubs seems set to solve this dilemma.
A boer maak n ‘plan!
“Eco Clarity is revolutionary approach to Grease Trap Waste (GTW) management. With our patented technology we can accept and process large volumes of GTW in real-time. By forming a network of convenient GTW Consolidation sites, we can reduce time and logistic costs for GTW haulers, thus attracting large volumes of Grease Trap Tankered waste to these sites” explained Clemes.
“Our small footprint, containerised, low energy plants enable the legal disposal of GTW at almost any wastewater treatment works site. With reduced travel times GTW haulers can spend, less time driving to distant disposal locations, and more time servicing their FSE customers, thus reducing spills into the downstream sewer networks, reducing blockages and associated reactive clean-up costs.”
From no value to a high value win-win.
FOG is defined as the lipid rich material generated during cooking and food processing having a high calorific content making it an ideal feedstock for energy recovery which in the UK and EU qualifies for triple counting renewable energy directive (RED) credits unlike Used Cooking Oil (UCO).
GTW in its typical form is not suitable for bio-diesel producers, who require a minimum 95% FOG concentration. Transporting large volumes of water for small feedstock volume and high pre-treatment costs to dewater it, gives it very little economic value, and less incentive for GTW haulers to collect waste at affordable prices.
Clemes explains: “Eco Clarity has developed a patented process for harvesting FOG and solids, effectively dewatering the GTW and achieving the very saleable 95% FOG concentration whilst discharging water with typically a 30% Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) reduction and less than 0.001% FOG content. The process is purely mechanical and uses no chemicals.
“The conversion of GTW into a concentrated high value feed stock in great demand for biodiesel production and meeting Renewable Energy Directive targets in the UK and EU. We can provide feedstock with International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) while generating Renewable Energy Directive Credits for Bio-Diesel Producers, and Green Credentials for water utilities who enable the acceptance of GTW to their sites, and for the Grease Trap Waste Haulers who despose of their GTW at these sites” he enthused.
“To address the problem of having fewer and fewer disposal locations that accept GTW, and with more countries banning acceptance at landfill, our model – that is gaining wide acceptance in the UK – involves establishing a network of convenient low cost GTW disposal sites that can be installed at any existing wastewater treatment works, or private permitted wastewater discharge sites. The patented technology has a small footprint, is low energy and low cost, and can handle large volumes continuously. Our ‘FOG Consolidation Hubs’ are modular, scalable and containerised.
“The Eco Clarity concept has been proven in long term tests at a trial and testing facility in Amsterdam with Argent Energy, Netherlands, a major bio-diesel producer in The Netherlands. Having validated our technology and successfully completed trials, we have now completed FAT of our latest 3rd generation plant in Jan/Feb 2022 with shipping and installation at Argent Energy, UK to go-live at a fully operational capacity in April 2022. Eco Clarity provides a unique low risk and high return opportunity for enabling GTW deliveries at existing wastewater treatment sites in the UK and Europe, in fact anywhere!” concluded Clemes.
Local manufacturing bonus
The sophisticated Eco Clarity containerised plant and components are locally manufactured by metal fabricator Fabrinox in Paarl. The company built the original test unit supplied to Argent Energy in The Netherlands and have in collaboration with Clemes and his team, refined the concept and manufacturing techniques, with plans, and work started on, shipping a further three plants to sites the UK where Fabrinox experts will assemble, test and commission the units before handover to Eco Clarity.
The fact that Fabrinox can successfully manufacture and export competitively to an international market, bears testimony to the firm’s 29 year reputation in manufacturing, project management and installation capabilities for both local and international clients.
- Upon cooling, FOG congeals and solidifies, accumulating on pipe walls and potentially forming hardened deposits. Fatbergs lead to a reduction in sewer conveyance capacity and ultimately to sanitary sewer overflows that cost water utilities globally hundreds of millions of Rands each year in reactive cleaning, repairing, and maintenance fees.
- Eco Clarity’s Hubs have a small footprint of 10m2, made up of an automated Huber solids screen, two 6m treatment containers, and a 6m FOG post processing and storage container.
- A standard Eco Clarity GTW Hub, is capable of accepting 10 tons of GTW in 10 minutes, with a further 10 ton truck each 15-20 minutes thereafter. Being automated the system is able to receive waste 24/7. With a quick setup, the Eco Clarity GTW Conversion Hub was ready to process waste within three days of delivery.