Advanced Filtration Media (AFM): Clean Water Market Analysis

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Executive Summary

This report has been prepared by Entec to provide a market assessment of the application of AFM (Advanced Filtration Media) for potable water treatment. The work has been carried out on behalf of BREWEB, the Environmental Body of the Building Research Establishment and Dryden Aqua Limited, the developers of AFM.

AFM is a high quality product that has been developed as a replacement media for silica sand in rapid gravity and pressure filters. Derived from green and brown glass cullet, AFM has demonstrated enhanced performance over traditional media materials over the last 6 years in a range of applications, including wastewater treatment and swimming pool water filtration.

A research and development programme is underway to demonstrate the operational and environmental benefits of AFM and to facilitate market penetration of this high value use for processed glass material (PGM). The programme is supported by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), the EC Life-Environment Fund, Industry and the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme, and has the following specific objectives:

  • To gain industry acceptance and regulatory approval for the use of AFM in drinking water treatment; and
  • To set up the first full-scale AFM production facility, with a target output of 20,000 tonnes of high quality material per annum.

In support of the development programme, Entec have been commissioned to carry out a study
focussing on the following activities:

  • A comprehensive review of water filtration in the UK water industry;
  • Identification of the opportunities and barriers associated with uptake of AFM for clean water treatment;
  • Provision of a Life Cycle Costing exercise comparing AFM with traditional media material; and
  • Assessment of the wider opportunities to make use of AFM and recycled glass in water industry applications, and to benchmark the water industry as a user of sustainable services and products.

The report identifies a number of headline findings associated with the potential uptake of AFM
for clean water treatment:

1. Information describing the size of the market for filter-grade sand and Entec’s investigations in to the quantities of filter media used in rapid gravity and pressure filters indicates that the annual demand for AFM in clean water applications may be in the range 40,000 – 60,000 tonnes per annum. Market requirements for filter media vary over time; the actual figure in any one year may be higher depending on the capital spend programmes of the Water Service providers (WSPs).

2. AFM could offer substantial benefits over traditional media through reduced maintenance and backwashing, enhanced particulate removal, targeted contaminant removal, and prolonged life. These benefits are being explored through a series of trials, which also need to address the barriers such as DWI approval requirements, and the risk of contaminants leaching from the glass and glass shards passing into the distribution system.

3. The ability of AFM to claim a significant slice of the market will be heavily dependent upon the outcome of the next phase of operational trials. Essex and Suffolk Water and Scottish Water have been confirmed as trial hosts, with positive interest also shown by United Utilities and Wessex Water at the time of this report being prepared. The trials are key to securing DWI approval for the media through demonstration of its operational performance and physical stability in the environment of the filter.

4. Should the trials prove the claims that AFM is more effective in removing particulate matter than sand, with a reduced need for backwashing, then the water industry should be receptive to adopting it on a large scale. Any reasonable cost premiums incurred in using AFM in preference to traditional media will be inconsequential if the media proves itself as a robust means of treating water where there are acute quality problems, e.g. high levels of TriHaloMethanes (THMs) or presence of Crytosporidium. In such instances, the costs of installing AFM will be far less than alternative options involving investment in new and costly processes such as ozone and UV treatment.

5. The current trend within UK water treatment is towards rapid gravity filtration, although a small proportion of works (estimated to be in the region of 20 percent) still rely on slow sand systems. The prohibitive costs of membrane filtration systems means that these are limited to applications where water quality risks are greatest. The European water industry makes greater use of rapid gravity filtration than the UK, with relatively little slow sand filtration. The European water industry may therefore represent a significant long-term market opportunity for AFM.

6. The structure and management of the UK water industry is changing. Capital maintenance decisions are increasingly driven by centralised ‘asset management’ functions with expenditure being prioritised on the basis of risk and serviceability. A key selling point for AFM will be its value as a cost-effective solution that reduces the risk of service level breaches at Water Treatment Works (WTWs).

7. Emerging applications for recycled materials commonly suffer from barriers to market application because of standards and specifications. Because many standards have been developed around specific source materials, it is often not possible to apply these to new entrants. Stakeholders in the recycling industry are lobbying for technical standards and specifications to be driven by market need and whether a product is ‘fit for purpose’.

8. As the supply of filter-grade silica sand becomes focussed on fewer sites with high quality raw materials and more sophisticated processing plant, the sustainability of this option will be impacted by increasing transport needs. In the medium to long-term, should Dryden Aqua be able to set up regional AFM processing facilities then the environmental argument in favour of AFM will increase. Transport costs, which are not insignificant in the glass supply-chain shall also be reduced.

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