Shell has awarded Water Innovate £40,000 to help extend the market potential of its proven and innovative N-Tox nitrous oxide monitoring technology. Dr. Steve Callister, managing director at Water Innovate, said “We are delighted to have won this Shell Springboard award—our plans for commercializing N-Tox have been given a valuable boost that will allow us to accelerate the pace of bringing this technology to the international environmental market.”
Water Innovate was one of just three Southern Region finalists out of 265 entries selected to go through to the Shell Springboard National Final in London. Springboard judges were looking for commercially viable business plans for innovative products and services that would lead to greenhouse gas reductions.
Tom Stephenson, Water Innovate’s technical director, explained that N-Tox detects nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with almost 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. “Nitrous oxide is an important but often overlooked greenhouse gas; over 4% of its emissions arise from wastewater treatment, and these discharges are expected to increase significantly as tougher effluent nitrogen controls come into force,” he said.
Having recognized this issue, Water Innovate has invested significant resources in developing N-Tox to enable wastewater plant operators to detect nitrous oxide, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas release and mitigate global warming effects.
The new technique has the additional advantage that, at the same time, it can be used for evaluating nitrification efficiency in industrial and municipal activated sludge systems. Tom Stephenson commented, “As nitrous oxide is an indicator of nitrification failure, N-Tox can be used to help the direct control of ammonia levels in treated effluent. Our technology can provide an early warning of wastewater treatment failure.”
He added, “When nitrification starts to fail, we see rapid detection of nitrous oxide, and the rate of production is directly related to this failure. Hence, measurement of nitrous oxide using N-Tox allows effective monitoring of nitrification performance to help prevent breakthrough of ammonia into effluent.”
Extensive research at Cranfield University, U.K., set the foundations to enable Water Innovate to develop this patented technology. The Shell Springboard funding ensures the ongoing development of the product.
The N-Tox monitor is housed within an IP65 enclosure and comprises an integral sample pump, gas conditioning device, non-dispersive infrared gas analyzer, auto-calibration system and data logging unit. The robust instrument transmits 4-20 mA in proportion to nitrous oxide level and has various user-configurable plant failure and greenhouse gas emission alarm settings. As N-Tox relies on non-invasive gas-phase detection of nitrous oxide, rather than detection in the aqueous phase, probe fouling problems can be avoided.
Because industrial effluents, such as landfill leachate or pharmaceutical wastewater, have high ammonia levels, and many wastewater treatment works are consented by the U.K. Environment Agency for ammonia at less than 5 mg/L in treated effluent, the requirement for an N-Tox alarm is critical, as the consequences of nitrification failure can be serious.
Water Innovate is bridging the innovation gap by transferring N-Tox and other revolutionary products from the laboratory to the international environmental technology market. The company brings together a combination of proven management capability, secured financial backing, expert technical knowledge and experience, and protected intellectual property.