Wastewater treatment

Wastewater treatment, from plant to control


A German company designs and manufactures modular, flexible and automated technologies to manage wastewater treatment. Adaptable to the needs of companies in different sectors-including the paper industry-these systems can vary in size and be implemented over time as needed.

In the water cycle, recovery of the resource for later re-entry into the cycle is crucial for various types of industries, including, as we know, for the paper manufacturing sector. A German company has devised a system that cleans wastewater and reuses it in processes, allowing the companies that installed it a twofold benefit: saving on freshwater consumption and wastewater disposal costs, on the one hand, and recovering resources such as clean water, energy and nutrients, on the other.

A wastewater system

The company in question is called FlexBio Technologie GmbH and was founded in 2014 as a spin-off from Hawk University of Applied Sciences in Göttingen. It has devised a process that can take advantage of different cleaning methods that can be combined depending on the initial wastewater load in the water and the cleaning performance required by the company.

FlexBio experts explain that it is possible, for example, «to plan and produce mechanical pre-treatment with full biological treatment and chemical post-cleaning with subsequent disinfection or disinfection as a complete treatment system. With the help of anaerobic wastewater treatment, contaminated water is cleaned in the absence of air.» This operation, they say, makes it possible to produce a biogas that-where possible-can be used as a source of energy for heating or to generate electricity.

Modularity is another feature of the system, so much so that these plants prove suitable for both large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises. The central module of the treatment system makes it possible to handle even the most complex requirements, and each plant, in case the needs of the installing company change over time, can always be expanded. Different needs depend not only on the different size of the company but also on the sector in which it operates, whether it is industry or agriculture. «From SMEs to large organizations, the systems are easily expandable and scalable,» they clarify from FlexBio, «so they can be expanded at anytime.»

In addition to the compact wastewater treatment solution that is well suited to small- to medium-sized plants, to meet the needs of larger companies, the German company’s team has also built its systems inside standard ISO containers-approximately 6 and 12 meters in size-that are suitable for both indoor and outdoor installations. What FlexBio’s experts call the “heart of the system” or the master controller is then integrated into the container, in addition to the XV300 touch panel, a control unit (slave) and an electrical cabinet.

Control technologies

It is precisely the ability to be flexible in design and thus to adapt to the conformation and needs of different enterprises that, conversely, also requires the need to ensure flexibility in plant control. To carry out these tasks, FlexBio relied on the systems of those who could guarantee it extensive experience in energy management. And the choice of technology to be installed fell on Eaton particularly with regard to automation enabled by the XC300 controller, the XV300 touch panel in combination with Galileo visualization software, and the XN300 remote I/O system.

The control solution was also chosen by FlexBio because it is compact and versatile, thus able to provide wastewater treatment systems that are modular and can be customized. The XC300, which in its full version is equipped with three Ethernet and two CAN interfaces, a USB host, an RS485 interface, and four input/output channels with their own power supply, is used in conjunction with the XN300 remote I/O and XV300 touch panel.

The field level of the controller can be configured using the digital, analog and technology modules of the XN system and can thus be adapted and expanded as needed. This configuration allows FlexBio water treatment systems to measure and control all necessary parameters, such as water flow rate and pH value, gas quality and level, temperature, and pressure. Depending on gas availability or quality, the XC300 can also turn on and off loads such as a cogeneration plant or an emergency lamp.

The decision to turn to Eaton was motivated by prior knowledge of its technology solutions. The German company had already adopted Eaton’s XV family HMI/PLC and therefore chose the XC300 controller as soon as it was available on the market. Crucial are the numerous integrated interfaces provided as standard by the new controller, which allow the different measurement parameters and their protocols to be managed with a single system.

Visualization, on the other hand, is entrusted to the Galileo software through which new user interfaces can be created or existing ones adapted. Its use is designed to be simple and accessible so that it can be used even by personnel without any programming knowledge. The software also allows controllers from other manufacturers to be integrated. If the company needs to make use of a different controller, it will be possible to use web visualization and Html5 functionality to be able to access and maintain the system remotely from any location or device – computer, tablet, or smartphone – without the need to create a new visualization.