The dynamic Innovations Forum sponsored by Aqualia at WEX Global Summit 2019 assembles industry leaders and innovators from the water and wastewater sector. This year’s event welcomes Baleen Filters to the panel, an Australian company whose inventive approach to filtration has been inspired by nature.

Established in 1999 following a four-year industrially-applied Research and Development program at the University of South Australia, the Baleen filter technology was pioneered by chemical engineer and environmental scientist Yuri Obst. Yuri developed the technology as part of his doctorate study and completed no less than 27 projects encompassing Cleaner Production directives before he took up the position of Managing Director for Baleen Filters Pty Limited.

Yuri has always maintained a vision of an ecologically-centred approach to waste water treatment and infrastructure, with the twin aims of “Ending Marine Pollution” and “Solving Climate Change” being an integral part of his design process.  The Baleen project emerged as a tech start-up through the University of South Australia’s incubator program and with support towards commercialisation from private organisations and the Australian government, the project has gone on to be part of more than 200 municipal, mining and food and beverage applications globally.

The technology is named after an anatomical feature of filter-feeding whales, the baleen being the plates of hair-like keratin that the whales use to filter their food of minuscule krill from the ocean after each sweeping dive. By taking in water along with their meal, the whales are able to efficiently separate their food from the liquid before using their tongue and the outflow of water to clean their baleen plates. The Baleen filter works on the same principal to vastly improve separation processes in wastewater treatment.

In a remarkable two-step process, Baleen enables renewable energy to be converted from waste, while drinkable water is recovered for sustainable food production. The filter works by means of two high pressure, low volume sprays. Material caught in the screen is displaced by one of the sprays, while a second collects the detritus in a sweeping motion, like the action of a whale’s tongue. Thus the removal of bacteria, sands and other suspended particles are efficiently filtered and by-products are recovered in a continuous manner.

Since 1997, the patented Baleen Filter has been tested and applied throughout the wastewater industries and once installed, provides exceptional economic benefits thanks to its low capital and operating costs. It functions as a primary (load reduction) and a secondary (solids, dewatering, polishing) treatment system that surpasses the expenses and impracticalities of conventional processes.

Recently, the Baleen filter has played a role in supplying water to a significant gas project off the coast of Western Australia, simultaneously respecting the environment by avoiding damaging to the ecosystem. The success at Barrow Island’s Gorgon gas fields highlights its potential for use in the desalination industry in its capacity to manage and process brine waste.

The technology has received high accolade, including a Gold Medal for Best Industrial Technology at the 2001 International Exhibition of Inventions in Switzerland, the Advanced Water Technology Award at the 2010 Artemis Project: Top 50 Water Company Awards in San Francisco and most recently was crowned Company of the Year (CLEAN TECH) at the ACQ Global Awards 2017 in Australia. With an impressive portfolio that includes multi-billion dollar corporate clients such as Fonterra, Fosters and Nestle, Baleen Filters Pty Limited are making significant changes to the industry. From Australia and New Zealand to the UK, North America and South Africa, the Baleen filter has revolutionised the wastewater treatment process and has contributed to a huge paradigm shift from extractive to circular; it is a true model of progress towards a circular economy.

Representatives from Baleen Filters Pty Limited will be on hand for questions and open discussion at the Innovations Forum sponsored by Aqualia at WEX Global 2019, held in the City of Gaia, Porto, Portugal on 4-6th March.