Lambton Water Centre and KmX Partner for Success

WaterTAP (February 10, 2015) -- Ontarios water sectors growing reputation amongst the global water community speaks to a healthy spout of homegrown resources something weve reported as quite tempting to foreign investment. Theres no shortage of sturdy platforms for rethinking water reuse, preservation, and clean technology. However, as the technology and methods companies are developing become more complex and any given companys focus grows more refined, companies may not have the valves, so to speak, to open a clear workflow for R&D projects to bypass bottlenecks and reach completion.

Part of the solution is active participation in industry networking, but for the sector to continue to thrive, another key area to tap is close partnerships between the private sector and academic institutions.

Sarnias Lambton College is one such promising example. In 2013, this institution received NSERC grant funding to establish the Lambton Water Centre (LWC), which has labs for both advanced process control and water analysis. Two key activities govern the Centres mandate: First, LWC does research and development of new designs and implementation for the automation, instrumentation, optimization, and modeling of drinking water and wastewater technology systems. Second, LWC fosters collaboration opportunities so students can gain first-hand experience with pilot testing.

Already, LWC has spearheaded many successful collaborations. In the past, it has worked with the City of Sarnia to deal with excess groundwater and stormwater runoff in the sewer infrastructure by implementing a remote flow-monitoring system. The LWC participated with Western University on a research initiative to test micro-pollutants in domestic wastewater effluents related to pharmaceutical waste, estrogenic-based medicines, and personal care products, so as to assess the toxic effects on local fish and aquatic populations. LWC has also teamed with Hamilton-based Hydromantis Environmental Software Solutions Inc. to address a critical need in the water industry for an advanced control monitoring system that focuses on real-time online data capturing and modeling.

Recently, LWC has collaborated with KmX Membrane Technologies a thriving Oakville-based water technology company. KmX is undertaking water recovery from heavy brines in the hydraulic fracturing, mining and oil sands processes. Once recovered, this water can be reused or safely discharged back into the environment.

The research and pilot testing that LWC offers will enable KmX to automate, control, and optimize their membrane-based wastewater recovery pilot plant by implementing a fully automated, advanced control system. KmX anticipates that this process will aid efforts to improve recovery yield and energy consumption, and to commercialize the technology on a larger scale. Now that the research phase is complete, pilot testing is slated to begin.

Researchers Kevin Ryan and Margaret Carter of LWC have positive feedback about the collaboration. Weve been helping KmX bring a new product and process to commercialization potential, says Ryan. During our two-year collaboration, we have worked together to ensure the full potential and scope for a successful start-up. Typically a company would have to use three different contractors for a project of this scope, Ryan says. Our capabilities were a surprise to KmX, Carter adds.

Carter says colleges offer immediate, concrete results, and close collaboration. With a college project, theres an expectation that there will be a product or a process within a couple of years, she says.

At KmX, CEO Isaac Gaon, project manager Harvey Vowels, and general manager Jill Harris are also happy with the joint mission. Its been a very positive collaboration so far LWC has been very cooperative and helpful, Vowels says. They seem very excited about our technology, Gaon adds.

KmX built a biofuels pilot plant at the Sarnia Research Park near Lambton College about three years ago, and the college provided operating staff for 18 months. That was our first project with the college, Vowels says. Then as the college was developing its water center at the Research Park, we were developing our heavy brine water pilot facility, so the two came together as our second project.

The engineering resources at KmX are focused on the chemical and mechanical aspects of the process. We had gaps in the control and analysis parts of the process, Harris explains. In this regard, Gaon understood the merits of getting support from outside parties. We have limited resources, and we recognize what those limits are, he says. If we go out to organizations to build our infrastructure, the work can be done faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost. Gaon is convinced the results will be positive and KmX hopes to work on a future biofuels projects with LWC.

Harris believes these projects hold benefits for both parties. The collaboration allows LWC students to learn chemical and water processing in an applied setting, and to actually see their research in action, she says.

Ryan shares this sentiment. Learning on-the-job related skills and working together as a team on this project has made our students more employable and experienced.

Were hopeful that we will have another project with KmX the companys membrane technology is a great addition to Canadian research and we would like to help optimize future processes through instrumentation and automation, he says.

As the LWC expands, Lambton College will continue to develop new partnerships and projects in the area of water and wastewater treatment while encouraging potential partners to connect with them to discuss collaborative opportunities.

Visit the Lambton Water Centre website to learn more.