Blue Foot Membranes provides water-intensive industries with the technology to reuse water.
Industrialization, agricultural expansion and a growing population have led to an ever increasing and unsustainable use of groundwater. As a result, groundwater resources and the social, economic and environmental systems depending on them have come under intense pressure. To counteract this, many countries have restricted the industrial use of groundwater, necessitating the re-use of wastewater. Blue Foot Membranes produces membranes that enable the most reliable and robust treatment of industrial and municipal wastewater at the lowest TCO and help pave the way towards a more sustainable future.
These Integrated Permeate Channel (IPC) membranes are the result of a decade of research at VITO and are intended for membrane bioreactors (MBR). An MBR is a type of wastewater treatment technology combining conventional biological treatment processes with membrane filtration. Blue Foot Membranes’ IPC membranes are less prone to fouling and clogging compared to the industry standard. As Stephan van Hoof, the company’s CEO, elaborates “Essentially, a membrane is a very fine filter that retains everything that is not dissolved in the water. Like with a coffee filter, solids accumulate on the membrane, and it gets more and more difficult to filter more water through. What is unique about our membrane is that it allows to perform a vigorous backwash, meaning a reversal of the flow. This enables to lift and wash away the solids and results in a very stable process.”
Our product has such unique features that we can genuinely say we offer the most robust, reliable proposition for our customers at the lowest total cost of ownership.
The membranes in MBRs are also aerated to reduce fouling. Membrane aeration is an energy-intensive process that significantly impacts the overall energy consumption of an MBR wastewater treatment system. According to Stephan, “IPC membranes allow for up to 50% less aeration, which translates into reduced energy consumption and operational expenses. Overall, our product has such unique features that we can genuinely say we offer the most robust, reliable proposition for our customers at the lowest total cost of ownership.”
The advantages of IPC membranes have also been demonstrated in the field. Last year, one of Blue Foot Membranes’ partners was awarded the construction of a new plant at Carlsberg’s flagship brewery in Denmark. This new plant allows the brewery to recycle 90% of all process water and makes a significant contribution to Carlsberg’s “ZERO Water Waste” goal by reducing their water consumption from 3,4 liters to 1,7 liters per liter of beer. Suffice to say that this demonstrates an enormous opportunity for breweries in general, most of which still consume 4 to 6 liters of water to produce a single liter of beer.
It is undeniable that Qbic contributes more than just financially. Of course the money is important, but it is the way Qbic handles things that makes a big difference.
When Blue Foot Membranes was launched in 2017, they teamed up with a group of external investors that was led by Qbic. Reflecting on this partnership, Stephan comments “Qbic has been very hands-on in the areas where it matters. They spearheaded a restructuring that was imperative to safeguard the company. A Qbic team member also took up the interim CFO role when we needed someone to thoroughly discuss the financial structure and the overall finances with. And what I have really appreciated, is that the people at Qbic are very engaged. It is undeniable that they are contributing more than just financially. Of course the money is important, but it is the way Qbic handles things that makes a big difference.”
We really cooperate with our partners. This might sound obvious, but it is a different way of working that has proven successful.
Blue Foot Membranes differentiates itself as a technology supplier. As Stephan explains “We do not sell our products to the end-user, various industries, directly. We partner with wastewater treatment plant manufacturers that use our technology to ensure their solutions operate flawlessly We really cooperate with our partners, we support them with the integration and risk management, and operational troubleshooting if and when necessary. This might sound obvious, but it is a different way of working that has proven successful.” In addition, the team continues to finetune the product and is preparing for capacity expansion. Stephan adds “We are currently focusing on Northwestern Europe. Next up is the rest of Europe, and then we aim to go global in the next couple of years. I can see a lot of potential and a great future ahead.”
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