Rockwell Automation is working with Ireland-based SCFI to change the way water and waste water sludge is dealt with by using a Super Critical Water Oxidation process that results in almost 100 per cent solubility for gases and organic compounds. The first commercial unit is expected to be fully operational in the autumn of 2011.

The built-to-order units raise the temperature of the water/sludge to 374°C and pressurising it to 221 bar to bring about a supercritical condition or ‘fourth phase’ – a process called Super Critical Water Oxidation. This results in the solubility of gases and organic compounds being increased to almost 100 per cent, while inorganic compounds become largely insoluble. In the Super Critical phase, complete oxidation of pharmaceutical wastewater is achieved and, as oxidation occurs in the ‘water’ phase, the process does not have the air emissions issues associated with incineration of high strength organic wastewater streams. Vincent Guillaumie, Rockwell Automation’s water and waste water industry business manager in EMEA says: “This technology can replace expensive and wasteful practices for disposing of wastewater.” In 1998 such waste was often dumped at sea, but a world ban on the practice left only three options; incineration, landfill and land spreading.

The Rockwell Automation control platform, all mechanical and electrical components, instruments and controls are built in Cork. The units are built on ‘skids’ so that they can be produced in a modular way and transported worldwide.