Adding to the Value

Nov. 2, 2006

Jeff Garwood, CEO of GE Water & Process Technologies, and Steve Watzeck, president of ZENON Membrane Solutions, answered some frequently asked questions about GE’s acquisition of ZENON Environmental, Inc. and what it means for the municipal market.

MT: Why did GE buy ZENON?

Jeff: ZENON filled a big hole in GE’s product offering for the water industry, and makes GE one of the industry’s largest suppliers of complete advanced water treatment solutions. Technologies like ZENON’s ZeeWeed ultrafiltration (UF) membranes will play a major role in solving the world’s most pressing water challenges, such as increasing water scarcity, declining water quality and rising infrastructure costs.

ZENON strengthens GE’s product portfolio and opens many doors to outstanding synergies among our products, enabling GE to be a single-source supplier for virtually any water or wastewater project.

For example, the recently announced Odessa Port Plant in Ukraine will combine ZeeWeed UF pretreatment with GE reverse osmosis (RO) and EDI to provide a 4-mgd desalination system for one of eastern Europe’s largest fertilizer manufacturers. There are many more projects like this one on the horizon.

MT: What does GE bring to the municipal market?

Jeff: ZENON is well established as a leading brand name in the global municipal water and wastewater market. GE can enhance this status and offer even greater value for customers with stand-alone or complementary products to ZeeWeed. These include unique chemical offerings like the Novus shear-resistant polymer that reduces operating costs; nanofiltration, RO and electrodialysis reversal systems for communities struggling with difficult-to-treat water sources; mobile systems to assist in emergency situations; and an entire suite of enabling solutions that help clients to work faster and smarter. GE’s global research centers and product development efforts can also help to make ZENON technology even better—more cost-effective, more compact and more efficient. These synergies are great for North American municipalities and strengthen our offering of cost-effective technologies for emerging markets like China, India and eastern Europe, which all face significant water challenges.

MT: How will ZENON, as part of GE, serve its municipal clients?

Steve: We are firmly committed to go to market with our existing tier-one sales representatives, who have made ZENON one of the most successful membrane equipment suppliers in the industry. Our rep force is the most experienced in the business—many of them are pioneers in the commercialization and support of immersed membrane systems. We’ll continue to expand and develop our rep network, and bring in other GE products to expand their product offerings. We’re also committed to strengthening our relationships with consulting engineering firms, and will continue to work closely with them to design membrane plants while introducing the many products that GE brings to the table. Our municipal clients can also count on greatly enhanced services as we integrate with GE’s global support network to provide an even greater range of services and faster response times.

MT: Why are more municipalities looking at packaged plant systems, and what does GE offer?

Steve: Packaged plant systems offer significant value for small municipalities, including lower filtration costs, rapid delivery, robust performance and modular components that are easily expandable and can be configured to suit nearly any site. These pre-engineered systems are available for an extensive range of treatment needs.

In fact, with the addition of ZENON Membrane Solutions, GE offers the industry’s broadest range of packaged plants that are not just for small applications anymore. Our packaged water treatment offerings stretch from 32,000 gpd up to 6 mgd, while our packaged membrane bioreactor (MBR) plants range from 10,000 gpd to 4 mgd. We’re not aware of any other immersed membrane vendor that can achieve this range of treatment capacities. Whether a growing municipality is looking to expand an aging or underperforming conventional plant or is breaking ground on a new plant, our packaged UF systems provide solutions for superior water and wastewater treatment that can exceed current regulatory requirements, or facilitate decentralized infrastructure, and progressive water reuse initiatives. We’re also combining the strength and versatility of ZENON packaged UF plants with RO systems for an entirely new product offering from GE.

MT: What is GE’s ecomagination campaign, and what does it offer the municipal market?

Jeff: Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to develop and bring to market advanced technologies that will address our most pressing environmental needs—technologies that promote energy efficiency, lower emissions, protect our precious water supplies, lessen demand on potable water supplies and reduce our use of fossil fuels. ZENON’s legacy in the municipal market makes it a perfect fit with ecomagination. ZeeWeed technology was created from a desire to ensure safe, adequate water supplies and preserve environmental health at an affordable cost. We’ll continue to invest in ZENON technology and expand our offering to municipalities with products that will keep clients ahead of the regulatory trend and ensure current and future regulatory compliance.

Ecomagination can also offer municipalities many green technologies like energy-efficient lighting and renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar power systems that will help reduce plant operating costs beyond what the membrane system alone can provide.

MT: What recent milestone achievements reinforce the exceptional value of membrane technology for municipalities?

Steve: Our R&D efforts to reduce system costs and optimize treatment processes are two areas that really underscore recent leaps in the value of membrane systems. For example, a recently completed competitive bid for the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in San Diego County, Calif., was historic in two ways: It is the first plant to break the 100-mgd mark for immersed membrane water treatment, and secondly, it shows that ZeeWeed membranes no longer cost a premium over conventional offerings. The winning design-build-operate bid, submitted by CH2M HILL, clearly showed capital construction costs, annual costs and life-cycle costs for a ZeeWeed membrane plant were about 4% lower than the nearest competitive conventional technology offer.

Another great example is with our MBR wastewater treatment systems, where we’ve developed a new aeration strategy, called sequential 10/30 eco-aeration, that can reduce energy demands for aeration by as much as 75%. Aeration is one of the biggest energy requirements for an MBR, so this new process offers a significant benefit to our clients. Eco-aeration, along with 10/10 aeration and membrane relaxation methods, are the main components of intelligent aeration controls that we continue to develop to make MBR operation even more cost-effective.

MT: What are “mgd-years,” and why has the industry started using this metric to measure vendor experience in immersed membrane technology?

Steve: The term “mgd-years” is a simple measurement that says a lot about a vendor’s experience. As more membrane suppliers enter the market, consulting engineers and clients are looking for better ways to differentiate and measure the value that a vendor brings to a project.

Experience can be difficult to evaluate when considering a membrane system, especially if one vendor is touting number of plants, another is focusing on plant capacities, and a third is promoting how long the plants have been operating. Mgd-years combine all these metrics into a single number that levels the playing field and makes it easy to see a vendor’s experience. To calculate this figure, we multiply a plant’s average daily flow (ADF) by the number of years in service.

For example, an MBR plant with an ADF of 3 mgd, operating for three years, would be represented by 9 mgd-years. The total years of a vendor’s combined plants gives the overall mgd-years of experience. This method shows that ZENON Membrane Solutions has accumulated more than 160 mgd-years of experience for MBR technology.