What Is ECOVAP’s Core Technology?
ECOVAP, Inc. holds a patent-pending technology for evaporating and concentrating waste water at over 59 times the normal rate versus conventional evaporation ponds and without any of the negative environmental externalities of other means of disposal. ECOVAP’s technology is based on the biomimicry of natural evaporation, multiplied by exponentially increasing the waste water’s surface space-to-air. This is done through assembly of thousands of plastic panels, assembled in Lego-like construction, to build “Evaporation Matrix™ (“EMs”) towers. Wastewater is periodically pumped to the top of these towers, requiring little energy and using no thermal heat, chemicals or porous filters. The panels are made of 100% HDPE recycled plastic with specially designed shapes and angles, allowing the water to thinly and evenly “stick” to millions of inches of vertical and horizontal surface space.
What Are ECOVAP’s Markets?
ECOVAP markets include all industries that dispose of contaminated waste water or that concentrate natural-resource containing liquids before processing (i.e., “water mining”). The wastewater evaporation process “disposes” of pure H20 molecules (which usually represent more than 95% of the weight) via natural conversion to vapor as water is the only molecule that will change to a gaseous state at normal temperatures. The residual solids are then gathered for resell or much safer and smaller slurry or dry-stack waste disposal. Some markets that commonly use evaporation include:
• oil/gas “produced” water ponds
• lithium ponds
• mining tailings ponds
• thermoelectric/nuclear wastewater
• thermoelectric/nuclear cooling towers
• desalination brine concentrate
• road and table salt manufacture
• zero liquid discharge evaporation
• industrial-scale air-conditioning
• aerobic municipal sewage
• industrial (pulp/paper, textile, etc) wastewater
• agribusiness run-off
Are ECOVAP’s Costs Attractive vs. “Conventional” Evaporation? … Injection Wells?
ECOVAP’s costs are generally 50% to 90% below conventional wastewater disposal/concentration, including even the lowest cost disposal options such as injecting the water into open underground formations and conventional evaporation. The company’s low costs reflect a) an evaporation rate of over 59 times conventional evaporation ponds of comparable land footprint and b) low cash operating costs, mainly including a few low-pressure pumps that periodically (once every 3 to 5 hours) rewet the EMs. In contrast to conventional evaporation, ECOVAP EMs do not use atomizing sprayers, electrical or thermal heating, or chemicals. In addition, the EMs have no mechanical parts (except for a few low-pressure pumps), and the recycled HDPE plastic that for the towers is expected
to last over 40 years with negligible maintenance capex.
Although conventional evaporation ponds are generally only competitive in arid, hot areas (such as the Southwest U.S.), ECOVAP’s EMs have been shown to be competitive in colder (such as northern Utah and Montana) and wetter environments. Because ECOVAP’s costs are much lower than conventional evaporation, many of the markets that would otherwise only be addressed via wastewater injection can now be addressed by ECOVAP’s enhanced evaporation technology.
Where Can ECOVAP EMs Be Built?
ECOVAP EMs can be built to any shape or size on existing pond surfaces (“EM-Floats™”), alongside existing evaporation ponds (“EM-Dikes™”), or at the location where the waste water is initially produced (“EM-Towers™”). The EM-Towers™ are particularly effective in reducing (up to 95%) the transportation cost of wastewater disposal. EM-Towers™ usually require less than 1/50th the land space of conventional evaporation ponds, and their “catchments” are generally less than half as deep. For these towers, only the residual slurry that is gathered in a small catchment needs to be transported to a water disposal (such as a conventional Class II saltwater disposal well) or treatment, ZLD or recycling facility.
Construction Time, Modularity and Flexibility?
ECOVAP EMs can be built to any size, depending on the volume of disposal and concentration needed, generally in less than a month from initial groundbreaking, depending on size. The EM-Dike™ and EM-Float™ configurations generally require few if any new permits as the land footprint and general use permits are usually unchanged. Once constructed, EMs can easily be disassembled and moved to a new location, usually in less than a week, depending on size.
How is ECOVAP Environmentally Friendly?
Many studies suggest that conventional wastewater disposal has many highly negative impacts on the environment, including:
• Earthquakes and Aquifer Contamination — from injecting the water at high pressure back into the earth
• Seepage and overflows — lead to above-ground and below-ground aquifer contamination (mining tailings ponds, oil- and gas-produced water ponds)
• Air Pollution and CO2 — from trucking the wastewater to the disposal site or treatment facility.
ECOVAP eliminates nearly all of these environmental externalities as its technology:
• Uses Practically No Energy (CO2) — except “Mother Nature’s” natural evaporation, augmented by increased surface-to-air space on hydrophilic surfaces, and by sun and wind
• Requires Practically No Trucking (CO2) — as its towers can be located “on site”
• Uses No Chemicals (oil and aquifer contamination) or Thermal Heat (CO2)
• Will Not Cause Earthquakes or Underground Aquifer Contamination (i.e., vs. injection);
• Uses Less Than 1/50th of the Land Footprint of Conventional Ponds — leading to less risk of leakage or overflow for lined ponds and less seepage and aquifer contamination risk for unlined ponds and less migratory bird and animal poisoning.
• Uses 100% Recycled HDPE Plastic
Can High Winds Blow Contaminated Water to Surrounding Areas?
Over-spray of contaminated water is a common complaint against conventional evaporation ponds that use high-pressure sprayers (which ECOVAP EMs do not use) to accelerate evaporation. However, even without these sprayers, ECOVAP EMs will catch much more wind versus the ground level of a conventional pond. For towers that are located on the “dikes” of a conventional pond, there is plenty of surrounding pond surface space to catch falling droplets that are blown off from the tower. For EM-Towers (i.e., located at the point that the waste water is generated), ECOVAP has developed louvres that fit on the outside of any sized tower, allowing wind to go in but no water to go out. In addition, ECOVAP installation includes an additional 50 feet of plastic lining around the at-wellhead towers and on towers that are adjacent to conventional evaporation ponds.
Is ECOVAP’s Technology Proven?
Over the past four years, ECOVAP has built and tested many EM towers, constantly improving the efficiency and reducing the cost. In the fall of 2017, ECOVAP built its fully operational tower (23’L x 23’W x 24’H) at its million square foot conventional evaporation pond in Vernal, Utah. An independent study of this tower by Golder & Associates, Inc. measured that the tower evaporated water at 59 times the natural rate of conventional surface evaporation. ECOVAP believes that it has been able to improve its evaporation rate efficiency since then.
How Large are ECOVAP’s Towers?
ECOVAP can build its towers to any size and shape it needs depending on disposal need, location, wind direction, lot size, etc. All ECOVAP towers are built using 2’ x 2’ x 2” panels that are manufactured using unique plastic injection molding for meeting ECOVAP’s high-pressure, variable-temperature, 3D complexity, large size and hydrophilic treatment specifications. These panels are assembled in a Lego-like construction.
Will ECOVAP Towers Clog or Scale Due to the Accumulation of Salts, Oils and Other Solids?
ECOVAP has operated many EMs over long periods of time without significant scaling or clogging. The rare exception is in extremely hot, dry and windy conditions when the EM dries faster than it is rewet using normal pumping (i.e., once every 3 to 5 hours). In these conditions, ECOVAP has been able to avoid scaling by simply pumping the water more often and for longer periods of time, with slightly higher energy costs being more than offset by a much higher evaporation (i.e., disposal) rate. However, even if there is build-up of salt or debris in the tower, the towers are designed so that a worker can use a high-pressure spray to dislodge the buildup externally or via walk-ways within the tower without the need for external “clean” water.
Can ECOVAP Towers Withstand High Winds?
A “small” ECOVAP tower (H24’xW24’xL24’) weighs 34 tons and is comprised of 10,752 panels interconnected with 16 interlocking clips per panel. The towers are inherently designed to capture, disperse and diffuse wind energy. Our test tower in Vernal, Utah, has already had winds measured at 50 mph to 60 mph with no impact. In addition, for high-wind-prone areas, ECOVAP uses extra “safety clips” at negligible cost.
Under extreme wind events such as tornados and hurricanes, the biggest risk is from larger flying objects hitting the towers. However, even in this case, the undamaged panels can easily be 100% recycled right back into a new panel and used again.
Will Expansion From Freezing Water or Snow and Ice Accumulation Damage the EMs?
ECOVAP has operated its Vernal EM-Dike™ and Montana-based facilities at -10F° without any ice accumulation due to the constant movement and salinity of the water. Moreover, if freezing begins to occur, the EM can be shut down either manually or with automatic sensors. However, even if freezing occurs, the panels are engineered with gaps and spaces that are large enough to allow for maximum ice expansion and expulsion.
ECOVAP “Gen 1” EM towers have been tested to hold their own weight and the weight of accumulated water, ice and snow for up to 50 feet in height, and “Gen II” is expected to be significantly stronger. The standard ECOVAP EM design is 34 feet high, and the larger EMs will be longer and wider, not significantly higher.