Why Syngenta chose VITO's membrane technology

Article published on 06 April 2020 Francis Pilloud

As a science based agtech company that heavily relies on chemical processes, we got to know VITO a few years ago. We were given a presentation on how membranes can be used in separation processes. A technology we weren’t familiar with, and hence didn’t use it at the time. We immediately saw the opportunities that membrane technology would be able to give us in a number of projects.

The first test project

We ended up selecting a project with wastewater to test VITO's membranes. We were particularly interested in using membranes to treat wastewater containing one specific compound that is very difficult to biodegrade. We wanted to isolate this compound from the wastewater.

VITO advised us to start a test setup in a laboratory with five different membranes. One of the membranes was selected and included in a pilot project on a larger scale, with volumes up to 1,000 litres per batch. Because the results were promising we are considering to further roll out this technique on industrial scale.

Membrane technology has many advantages (for our processes). Alongside this pilot study in collaboration with VITO, we’ve set up our own study in our labs to compare the results and costs. After all, there are different techniques to remove certain compounds from wastewater. This can be done via incineration, extraction or membrane filtration. The membrane technology advised by VITO simply came out best. As ultimate elimination treatment, incineration is a process that resulted to be expensive. Whereas extraction showed high efficiency, the permeate quality from membrane separation is  sufficient for a subsequent biological treatment. However, it looks cheaper to use membranes. They are compact, with a smaller foot print and low investment costs.

Working with VITO

We’ve developed an outstanding working relationship with VITO throughout the entire process. There were frequent consultation moments, questions were answered quickly and satisfactorily, and we came up with joint creative solutions to problems that would arise. VITO is very much a research centre, focused on finding a solution to our problem. It is not driven by commercial interests. Besides, the project had a strict time frame that VITO always observed. VITO also proved adaptable to changing circumstances. We were a bit worried about our operators as they needed training to work with the equipment.  We needn’t have worried at all, VITO's technician trained our people effectively and in a very short time.

Thanks to VITO we were introduced to a new technique as well as its many possibilities, perhaps even for other applications in our company.

In the meantime, we have also committed ourselves to a new project with VITO, together with two other companies. So our collaboration is far from over.... We are confident about the technology and its implementation in our company.

Francis Pilloud, global environmental technology manager at Syngenta

Francis Pilloud Francis Pilloud
About the author

Global environmental technology manager at Syngenta

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