In line with its parent company’s R&D policy, SOCAMEX focuses its innovation activities on the development of solutions to further integrate its activities into the circular economy concept.
As such, SOCAMEX dedicates the majority of its R&D efforts to creating tools that contribute to closing the water management cycle, making this resource’s circular economy possible through reuse, along with other materials associated with water that are potentially recoverable.
With the goal of fully addressing the implementation of a circular economy for water, SOCAMEX is focused on the study of three thematic areas (the water-energy nexus, improved water quality, and obtaining new raw materials from wastewater treatment plants) that both collectively and individually contribute to the creation of quality R&D to achieve this goal:
Water quality improvement.
This area is focused on improving effluent quality, controlling microbiological water contamination, and classifying and eliminating emerging contaminants, taking into account current and future regulations in order to contribute to the optimal condition of bodies of water.
Obtaining new raw materials from wastewater treatment plants.
One important aspect of the circular economy for water is studying and recovering materials or substances that are associated with or absorbed into wastewater that can be extracted and used. These materials include struvite, nitrogen, phosphorus, bioplastics, and cellulose, as well as other materials that have not been traditionally considered as usable and whose relevance needs to be explored in greater detail.
On one hand, this area includes the optimisation of energy efficiency in water-intensive processes. On the other, SOCA looks for solutions aimed at achieving a circular economy for water that is sustainable.
SOCAMEX channels its R&D activities towards a circular economy for water through participation in European and national competitive R&D projects that are focused on these three areas. These are collaborative projects in which various types of entities participate, including public organisations, private companies, technology centres, and universities.
Competitive collaborative R&D projects represent a high level of added value for our company, as they bring together the entire value chain involved in the creation process and use of a specific technological solution, incorporating all stakeholders necessary to guarantee the new solution’s success from the very start. As such, collaborative projects represent an important source of synergy for producing new knowledge and technological and organisational solutions that are often close to market, which SOCAMEX can incorporate into the company to offer its clients services that are increasingly efficient, sustainable, and better quality.
In terms of recovering raw materials, it is important that we begin to think of wastewater treatment plants not as components that treat waste and generate expenses, but as biorefineries, as facilities capable of producing wealth in the form of high-quality materials and clean water that can be recycled. That is why, through its participation in European R&D projects, SOCAMEX works each day to overcome barriers to practical and ideological change that must occur at all levels (academic, business, administrative, legislative, and general public) in order to drive acceptance of this new paradigm about wastewater treatment plants.
Among SOCAMEX’s innovation projects, the following stand out:
LIFE GREEN SEWER.
A European project (the LIFE programme) that began in late 2018, which is aimed at testing innovative secondary wastewater treatment with resource recovery, finishing in 2021. The project’s website can be found here:
A European project (H2020) to scale up low carbon footprint techniques for recovering materials from existing water treatment plants. The project began in 2016 and will continue until mid-2020. The goal is to obtain high-quality materials from wastewater that can be used as industrial raw materials, and for other uses. All information can be consulted on the project’s website.
A European project (H2020) that began in June 2018 to demonstrate treatment technologies and planning tools geared towards the circular, integrated, and symbiotic use of water. The project aims to obtain very high-quality water from diverse, non-traditional sources (including wastewater treatment plants and underground water) that can be treated and used with certainty. The project will come to a close in 2022. You can consult all of the project’s information here.
A European project (H2020) that seeks to improve the energy efficiency of industrial water processes through the use of analysis tools and comparative learning in the European manufacturing industry. The most important results of this project have been the EMSA tool (for the self-assessment of industrial process energy efficiency) and the Energy Angels Network (which brings together professional profiles specialised in energy services and the use of the EMSA). You can access the website for the EMSA and the Energy Angels Network through the project’s website here.
A national competitive project (Retos-Colaboración, MINECO) that ended in 2017, which was focused on creating a water management platform to analyse quality (including microbial contamination) in real time.
A self-financed project carried out in collaboration with URBASER that was completed in the second quarter of 2018. The project was meant to demonstrate an alternative process for wastewater treatment plant sludge digestion.
SOCAMEX’s extensive network of collaborations (which includes suppliers, clients, technology centres, and administrations) is an added value that makes our company a valuable R&D project partner. As such, SOCAMEX is able to provide the stage for testing pilot technologies and carrying out the necessary project experimental tests, backed by the approval and support of relevant public administrations in each case.
Publicising project results is a key aspect of their success. For that reason, SOCAMEX has participated, and will continue to participate in various specialised conventions and conferences. One highlight includes SOCAMEX’s Smart Plant project being awarded the IWATER 2018 award for best R&D project in November of 2018.