Water is a hot topic at the moment, largely due to the ongoing water crisis in the Western Cape where businesses and consumers are taking extraordinary measures to keep the taps running.

While consumers are required to consume no more than 50 ℓ per day, businesses are looking at sustainable solutions that relieve pressure on the system, while ensuring their ongoing commercial viability in a particularly challenging economic climate.

At ImproChem – the business of AECI’s Water & Process pillar – a rapid deployment strategy has been put in place to facilitate the planning, design, construction and commissioning of desalination plants that are capable of producing over
1 MLD of water in just 16 weeks – the same amount of time that it takes to assemble a Boeing 747.

To date, a number of successes have been recorded, such as desalination plants for the Oceana Group, the Sea Harvest Group and Sonnendal Dairies. More plants are in the pipeline, including for healthcare and hospitality organisations.

Products and services

As the largest water treatment company in sub-Saharan Africa, ImproChem offers a comprehensive range of water management products and service, including:

  • cooling water management
  • membrane treatment
  • boiler system management
  • industrial influent water, public water and wastewater chemical treatment
  • process water treatment
  • package plants and standard equipment
  • custom-engineered solutions.

The company’s focus areas are chemical processing, engineered solutions, food and beverage, industrial, mining, public water, refining, and upstream oil and gas – and its footprint covers East Africa, West Africa and South Africa, as well as the Indian Ocean Islands. Each focus area and geography receives business support in terms of engineering, digital technology, finance, IT, risk and governance, human resources, marketing, product management, manufacturing, supply chain, process design, research and development, quality, and safety. This is provided from head office.

In Africa, where water scarcity is an ongoing challenge, ImproChem is doing a lot of work in the public water space, where the management and treatment of potable and sewage water lie at its core.

In terms of potable water treatment, ImproChem manufactures and supplies a wide range of coagulants and flocculants for solids separation. This includes its locally produced and NSF-approved Sudfloc range and intercompany-produced Senfloc range of products. Its sales representatives are trained in the art of product selection using ‘jar testing’ procedures and tailor each treatment programme to meet specific water quality needs.

The company also offers free-standing plants, containerised plants and medium-sized engineered plants, as well as custom-engineered plants.

Free-standing plants that are small and can be built into an existing plant room or can be skid mounted. They offer flow rates of between 1 m3 per hour and 10 m3
per hour.

Containerised plants are fully automated, tested at ImproChem’s factory and easy to install on-site. They offer flow rates of between 6 m3 per hour and 120 m3 per hour. ImproChem recently manufactured a containerised water treatment plant with a capacity of 1 MLD of water for the eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. In keeping with its rapid deployment strategy, it took just 10 days from start
to finish.

Medium-sized engineered plants are designed to specification, usually with flow rates of 10 m3 per hour to 250 m3
per hour.

Potable plant processes

Depending on the raw water composition, potable plants may contain the following unit processes:

  • flocculation and sedimentation
  • aeration/dissolved air flotation
  • filtration (mixed media or activated carbon)
  • softening (cold lime softening or ion exchange)
  • membrane (ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis or membrane bio-reactors)
  • sterilisation (chlorination, ultraviolet or chlorine dioxide).

ImproChem has in-house capability to design, fabricate and manage plants that cater for the treatment of site-specific raw water composition and treated water quality requirements. Engineered plants can consist of multiple combinations of various unit processes to address the spectrum of treatment required to produce safe drinking water, process water, ingredient water or wastewater that meets discharge regulations. ImproChem also has a locally produced cationic emulsion called SEP-G36 that will assist in adding value to a number of wastewater applications.

ImproChem’s sewage water treatment solutions include sludge dewatering and containerised
sewage plants.

Sludge handling is often the single largest cost in many wastewater plants and the company’s polymer ranges (liquid and powder flocculants) have been developed to optimise sludge
dewatering operations.

At the same time, its ‘plug-and-play’ sewage systems are capable of handling and treating sewage generated by up to 400 people at 150 ℓ per capita per day.

To ensure that customers get the maximum return on their investments, ImproChem also offers a manage, operate and maintain (MOM) programme.

Among the many benefits are:

Cost reduction

  • reduced process downtime, resulting in fewer equipment breakdowns
  • reduced overtime costs and more economical use of personnel due to working on a scheduled basis instead of a crash basis to repair breakdowns
  • reduced cost of repairs by fewer secondary failures – when parts fail in service, they usually damage other parts
  • reduced product rejects, rework and scrap due to better overall equipment condition
  • minimised unnecessary downtime.

Improved asset performance

  • increased plant availability
  • improved plant reliability (planned versus unplanned work)
  • consistent service delivery
  • sustainable quality
  • maximum asset utilisation and longevity improvement.

Risk reduction

  • compliance with legislation and regulation
  • reduced breakdowns to minimise business risks.

For new plants, the MOM programme is built into the plant from scratch ensuring that all the Ramos (reliability, availability, maintainability, operability and safety) aspects are taken into account throughout the process. Normally it includes maintenance, personnel, chemicals and materials, as well as the management function.

For existing plants, the methodology is different and involves the following steps:

  • a site assessment from a process and maintenance approach
  • efficiency of the plant operationally and mechanically
  • recommendations in terms of MOM personnel, optimal treatment for the plant, maintenance requirements for the plant, logistics and support needed for running the plant such as remote monitoring and alarming and mobile workshops
  • training and coaching.

ImproChem continues to work with various R&D partners on innovation projects. They are currently working on an interesting project around the removal of nitrites and phosphates, as well as bioaugmentation.

Finally, ImproChem is the authorised distributor of Palintest and Wagtech (a division of Phipps & Bird) water testing products in Southern Africa.

You are invited to visit the ImproChem stand at the WISA Conference where a number of technologies will be
on display.