Q. How is CARMON high-value and Low-Risk?
The CARMON Fluidized Bed Heat Exchanger (CARMON FBX) provides a rare opportunity: a very low-risk technology with very high payoff potential.
It is low-risk as CARMON FBX marries technologies with extended performance records and extremely well-known principles.
- Heat exchangers have been around, literally, for centuries and there are now 1000s of Moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) wastewater treatment systems around the world deployed over the past 35 years.
- The CARMON process has had multiple proof-of-concept and prototype testing, including a seventh-month long exposure in a waste-water tank.
- CARMON provides multiple high-payoff opportunities as it solves the inefficiency in heat-transfer due to biofouling that both causes wasteful operations (one study identified this as 0.025% of total U.S. energy use) and preempts leveraging heat for suitable applications (such as heating waste-water bioprocesses).
EcoVia has identified two initial market segments including: Wastewater Treatment, and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) Both markets >$100B/year globally and the CARMON FBX creates highly competitive options within significant segments of these markets.
Q. It seems so straightforward, hasn’t this already been done?
Inventions can seem self-evident with ex post facto consideration and often result from looking at a problem in a different way. In an analogy, frying pans had been around for millennia and electricity for a century before issuance of an electric frying pan patent.
While working on the potential to leverage waste heat, a project related to an MBBR facility emerged. As Mr. Fassbender considered the plastic MBBR elements that house beneficial micro-organisms and bacteria, he noticed that their outer edges were clear of any biofouling. As he did this work, an ‘aha’ moment occurred: these plastic elements, moving around within the fluidized bed, gradually scraped against each other and thus the edges remained free of biofouling. This led to a realization that these elements serve almost as a ‘loofa sponge’, gently scrubbing in the agitated state, and would keep any metal surface clean indefinitely – including heat exchangers.
The work on sewage facility processes, on the other hand, made clear the critical nature of temperature for efficient, effective, and reliable performance. And, examining the large gap between cold-weather (which is the sizing variable) and summer performance drove home the value derived from heating wastewater treatment.
The combination of looking at multiple technologies and issues in wastewater treatment sparked Fassbender’s development of CARMON and securing of multiple patents on the CARMON process around the world.
Q. How does a heat exchanger enhance wastewater treatment?
The micro-organisms that convert ammonia and amines into nitrites are highly affected by temperature – they thrive in warmer temperatures. (In other words, the ‘bugs like warmth.) Wastewater treatment plant daily capacity is rated based on the lowest performance period, e.g., the coldest water temperature periods. Raising that lowest temperature by three degrees Celsius will improve the biologic performance – and thus operating capacity – by over 20 percent.
Q. Is CARMON for retrofit or new facilities?
A CARMON FBX system can be retrofitted to an existing facility, to increase capacity for an existing footprint, and designed into a new facility to enable the same level of performance with a smaller footprint. In both situations, adding a CARMON FBX system to raise the ‘lowest’ operating temperature could be on the magnitude of is typically an order of magnitude less costly than building physical capacity to process cold wastewater.
In cases where there is a thermal power plant nearby, the CARMON FBX can transfer the waste heat to a wastewater treatment plant to supplement or double it’s biological capacity. Waste heat from a power plant used in this manner may qualify as a combined heat and power application and enable the power producer to alter their dispatch position and/or the greenhouse gas emissions profile.
CARMON FBX enables a different model for waste-water treatment plant expansion. Rather than a major construction project and physical expansion, a CARMON FBX upgrade is essentially “plug-and-play’. The key elements will be built off-site and delivered in modules. The heat-exchanger, itself, is essentially a ‘drop-in’ element and installation of heat transfer piping is a rapidly accomplishing engineering task.
CARMON FBX can be integrated into existing and new-build operations with, essentially, no change to existing operational procedures – other than raising the lowest water temperature and increasing facility throughput per volume. Direct maintenance requirements are minimal – essentially, standard maintenance on the heat source and inspection of equipment (such as piping). Total maintenance requirements might be measured in hours, rather than months, of labor per year.
CARMON has a negligible physical footprint and the system involves – at the most basic level – a heat exchanger within the MBBR tank, piping for heating, a heat source, and electronic controls. The actual heat exchanger required for a 3 degree Celsius warming (a 20 percent performance enhancement) will require less than one percent (<1%) of the tank volume. The entire system will likely be less than 1/20th (<5%) of the total facility footprint.
Heating waste-water to achieve better treatment is practical and cost-effective. To achieve increased operational performance in wastewater treatment requires manageable amounts of heating. Despite seemingly large flows, heating truly is on the margins – increasing temperature by a few degrees centigrade for several days per year often will meet all requirements.
Q. How does CARMON work with Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR)?
Heating, Ventilation, Air Condition, and Refrigeration (HVACR) is a fast growing segment between growing middle classes around the world and climate change. Geothermal systems often provide the most energy-efficient HVACR option but capital expenses and site constraints can make this unviable. CARMON FBX opens the door for leveraging water bodies – from run-off ponds to the ocean – as a heat/sink a much-lower cost geothermal-like HVACR system.
CARMON is suitable for fixed facilities with near-by water bodies and much of the built environment is near water bodies. For example, many box retail stores, strip malls, industrial facilities and hotels were built with storm-water catchment ponds that CARMON FBX enables leveraging as a heat sink to absorb HVAC and refrigeration heat. The pond surface works for free as it naturally exchanges heat with the environment 24/7/365. Using a pond or engineered water feature for HVAC and refrigeration is well known and many decades old – however, biofouling challenges have limited such applications and has even led to replacing such systems with cooling towers. The CARMON FBX offers an industrially robust way to use a self-cleaning stainless steel heat exchanger to transfer HVAC and refrigeration heat to biologically active water.
Dependent on the specific situation, CARMON FBX could offer a 30-50% reduction in HVACR energy requirements through leveraging water bodies as heat sinks. The system will also reduce ambient noise (no cooling fans), HVACR equipment footprints, and maintenance requirements. Dependent on the specific installation, a CARMON FBX HVACR installation could help address water pollution challenges (such as nitrogen runoff into a pond).
The Kigali Accords to the Montreal Convention have put the world economy on a path to eliminate super greenhouse gas (GHG) refrigerants. CARMON FBX offers a path for using sub-critical carbon dioxide (CO2) as a natural refrigerant. Such a system would lower HVACR costs (reduced energy and maintenance costs, with potential for lowered capital costs) while fully meeting the Kigali Accord requirements.