GE, Sasol's new technology cleans waste water, generates biogas

By Anna Simet | November 27, 2013

General Electric’s power and water division and energy and chemical company Sasol announced they have jointly developed a new technology that cleans waste water while generating biogas for power production.

The companies have named the technology Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor Technology (AbMBR), and plan to further develop it at a demonstration plant at Sasol’s R&D campus in Sasolburg, South Africa.

Sasol currently uses aerobic microbes to treat gas-to-liquid (GTL) and coal-to-liquid (GTL) effluents at two of its facilities, but the new AnMBR technology utilizes anaerobic microorganisms. Unlike traditional aerobic treatments that convert organics to carbon dioxide, the anaerobic microorganisms convert organics into a methane-rich biogas that can be used for power generation, resulting in an overall efficiency improvement in the GTL process, according to Sasol.

"The organics in waste water generated from our operations have proven to be the ideal food, or substrate, for anaerobic microorganisms," said Thulani Dlamini, executive manager of research and development at Sasol Technology. "We will now continue to explore and develop this technology further with the potential for commercial application to our future GTL facilities."

Daniele Scenarelli, GE account executive for Sasol, said the AnMBR is one of many solutions that can be developed in the petrochemical and refining environment to benefit all other industries.

The companies report that bench-scale test work has been ongoing for the past year, with promising results. They anticipate the technology will be commercially ready early in 2015.