OxyMem wins water innovation award

Athlone-based firm has developed a breakthrough technology for wastewater treatment

Taoiseach Enda Kenny presenting the Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Award to Eoin Casey and Wayne Byrne of Oxymem, with Thomas Hunter McGowan (left), CEO InterTradeIreland, and Liam Kavanagh (right), managing director of The Irish Times, earlier this year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Taoiseach Enda Kenny presenting the Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Award to Eoin Casey and Wayne Byrne of Oxymem, with Thomas Hunter McGowan (left), CEO InterTradeIreland, and Liam Kavanagh (right), managing director of The Irish Times, earlier this year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 01:00

Two UCD academics have won a European innovation award for breakthrough technology which they say will revolutionise the wastewater treatment business.

Prof Eoin Casey and Dr Eoin Syron founded OxyMem last year as a spin-out from UCD’s school of chemical and bioprocess engineering. The company has developed membrane technology to address the global need for a more energy-efficient aeration solution for waste-water treatment.

“Waste-water treatment is a process that essentially has not changed in the last 100 years,” OxyMem managing director Wayne Byrne said.

He said all waste-water in Ireland needs to be treated before being discharged into the sea and rivers, adding this is usually done by forced or bubble aeration.

He said 2.5 per cent of all electricity generated in developed countries is consumed by wastewater treatment plants. Some 60 per cent of this is used in adding oxygen to the wastewater and up to 70 per cent of this is being wasted as a result of inefficiencies in existing systems.

“Energy is thus the number one issue for the water treatment industry,” he added.

OxyMem’s solution does not rely on bubbles for oxygen. Instead it uses gas permeable membranes capable of delivering oxygen directly to the bacteria, resulting in a four-fold energy saving.

“Our system is four times more energy efficient than the best system available,” Mr Byrne said.

OxyMem’s system, which is being used at the Severn Trent Water facility in Birmingham, has been shown to deliver operating cost reductions of 75 per cent.

The firm estimates the overall global market for wastewater treatment technology to be €4 billion at present and to grow to €6.4 billion by 2020.

The Water Innovation SME award was presented to the company at the Water Innovation Europe 2014 conference in Brussels.

Earlier this year, the Athlone-based company won The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation of the Year award.