InOpSys valorises pharmaceutical and chemical wastewater

"Air Liquide's expertise is very important to us"
Manufacturing & Process
23 November 2020

InOpSys, a Belgian scaleup headquartered in Mechelen, specialises in treating and valorising wastewater generated by pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

Toxic wastewater streams from companies operating in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors have until now been largely considered as non-recyclable. This is because the polluted water often contains a wide range of constituents — anything from heavy metals to active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), organic material, surfactants, solvents, endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and so on — all of which cannot be treated with one single specific technique.

From incineration to recycling
Such wastewater streams are usually, therefore, taken by tankers for incineration. "This is the usual method of disposal, because it wasn’t thought possible that these wastewater streams could be adequately treated," InOpSys CEO Steven De Laet explains.

But that’s what InOpSys is now changing. "We thoroughly investigated how we could combine existing techniques for water treatment in a way that would be both powerful and efficient enough to properly treat complex streams of wastewater.”

"After six years of research and development, we’re successfully implementing the first practical solutions for our customers. These projects have also given us the opportunity to demonstrate that our approach is particularly effective in practice."

A solution for recycling wastewater on site
InOpSys purifies the wastewater at the customer's site. This means that it no longer has to be collected by trucks, therefore avoiding a lot of CO2 emissions.

"We make sure that the water is treated to the extent that it can then be further processed by the biological water treatment plant at the company’s site. We also ensure that harmful organic material, such as endocrine-disrupting micropollutants, are removed from the water. At present, companies are not yet obliged to filter these components out of the water, but we expect this to happen in the near future. At European level, the standards for micropollutants are in any case becoming more and more strict."

However, InOpSys is not just concerned with the water cycle. "If there are valuable components such as palladium or zinc in the wastewater, we remove them so that they can be recycled at a later stage by specialist companies.”

Recycling wastewater costs up to 30% less than incineration
"Sustainability is – quite rightly – more than ever an important issue for many companies, but of course the economic aspect also has to be taken into account. In this respect, InOpSys has a great track record, because our solutions are both sustainable and economical. By treating the wastewater on site with an InOpSys installation, it is usually possible to reduce costs by 20 to 30% compared to the traditional incineration method".

"In addition, there is no need for the customer to invest. InOpSys carries the whole investment and operates on a 'pay per use' basis".

Partnership with Air Liquide
"We purchase pure oxygen from Air Liquide, as well as CO2. We use the oxygen to generate ozone locally, while the CO2 is used to adjust the pH value of certain wastewater streams."

"But our collaboration goes much further than that. The fact is that Air Liquide has unique expertise when it comes to using industrial gases effectively in water treatment, and that expertise is very important to us. For example, Air Liquide has carried out pioneering work in the area of water treatment through advanced oxidation, a technique which uses ozone to biologically purify the water."

"In the meantime, we look upon Air Liquide as a strategic partner and we’re working together on several new projects. InOpSys is on the verge of significant growth, and we look forward to continuing to put our trust in Air Liquide’s insight and support."

Contact Rudy Lamond if you would like to know more about using oxygen, ozone and CO2 in water treatment.