Alu Circles awards innovation process to NETICS

New solution for aluminium sludge

Worldwide, drinking water production processes generate aluminium sludge. By far the largest portion of this sludge ends up in disposal sites. This is harmful for the environment and the discharge costs are high: time for new solutions! Using a unique procurement process, we set out to find entrepreneurs with whom to jointly engage in a new innovation process. The technology involved in the next research phase comes from NETICS B.V.

The challenge is to convert the one-off use of this material into a sustainable solution, such as upcycling or recycling, at a lower cost. In their search for the right technique to achieve this, three partners set up an international Public Buyers Group. AquaMinerals (partly acting on behalf of the Dutch drinking water companies), De Watergroep (Belgium) and Scottish Water are operating under the name of Alu Circles in this initiative.

Tendering via ‘Innovation Partnership’

Within the EU an instrument has been created for innovative procurement: the innovation partnership. On this basis, Alu Circles launched a call for tenders which resembled a contest: Who can develop a cost-effective and sustainable, circular solution for aluminium sludge? The best idea would be rewarded with a budget for further development, such as the conduct of tests and the development of a pilot. The unique feature of this approach is that we do not purchase any product, but rather R&D and solutions. The award is therefore not a contract for the actual processing of the sludge.

Reprocessing into building blocks

Following the call for tenders and an extensive review process, the development contract has been awarded to the Dutch company NETICS B.V. (www.netics.nl). This company focuses on research and business development in dewatering and the strengthening of soft sediments/sludge for useful applications. With the NETICS proprietary technology (GEOWALL®), the sediment or sludge is blended with binders and compressed into building blocks; these are then used in treatment plants, for instance, but also in paving, vertical walls or even small buildings. This technology is now to be further developed for aluminium sludge. The major benefits involved are sustainability – a circular solution with low energy consumption – and significantly lower costs. The project also includes developing knowledge of regulatory and legislative frameworks in other pertinent countries, potential local markets for the final products and the prospects for the deployment phase. For certain elements of the Alu Circles initiative NETICS will work with Royal HaskoningDHV (www.royalhaskoningdhv.com).

The process is being supervised and supported by Allied Waters (www.alliedwaters.com) and Corvers Procurement Services (www.corvers.com). See also www.alliedwaters.com/project/alucircles/.

If you have any questions please contact Ronny Theune (Theune@aquaminerals.com)

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