Published on: 13-May-2013
Remote-monitored one-man operation is the first such plant in South-east Asia
A Nanyang Technological University (NTU) start-up has successfully launched its first overseas water treatment plant in Vietnam on Friday, 10 May 2013.
Located at Duc Hoa, at Long An province near Ho Chi Minh City, the newly built plant is about the size of a 5-room HDB flat (120 square metres) but has an output of 1 million litres of drinking water daily (equivalent to 6,600 Singaporeans’ daily water consumption).
Compared with water plants in the area, the high-tech remote-monitored plant built by NTU’s new start-up, De.Mem Pte Ltd, will supply cleaner and cheaper potable water at just two-thirds of current prices there.
The first of its kind in South-east Asia, the plant is unique because it requires just one person to operate, and will be linked wirelessly via an NTU-designed network back to the Singapore office, which will oversee and manage its daily operations.
This new plant, a joint venture between De.Mem and Vietnam company GD Wasser, is backed by Singapore-based investment firm, New Asia Investments, which had invested S$300,000 into De.Mem.
A subsidiary and partner of MINT (Membrane Instruments & Technology), an NTU spin-off company supplying water quality sensor technologies for water treatment plants, De.Mem’s (short for Decentralised Membranes) role in the joint venture is to design, build and operate the water treatment plant.
The NTU start-up had leveraged on superior membrane technologies from Singapore to deliver cleaner yet cheaper water. It uses MINT’s patented membrane integrity sensor technologies developed at NTU’s Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI), which is able to monitor the plant’s performance, allowing for early detection of issues to keep it operating at optimum levels.
General Manager of De.Mem, Dr Adrian Yeo, said the innovative water network model is a combination of the latest in info-communications technology, MINT’s patented sensors, and Singapore-developed membranes and treatment processes.
“This model is a new form of de-centralised water treatment plants, where we can control the quality and operations of dozens of small water plants simultaneously while only needing very few skilled workers locally,” said Dr Yeo, who is also General Manager of MINT.
“It allows us to supply clean water to nearby communities and industries at a low cost as lesser energy is needed to distribute the water over short distances, as compared to those of a centralised water distribution network.”
Dr Yeo, who is also a Research Fellow at NTU’s Singapore Membrane Technology Centre, an offshoot of NEWRI that focuses on membrane research, said that as water infrastructure is being developed in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia, the concept of decentralised plants are becoming increasingly popular, since membrane technology has a small footprint and is modular.
Future expansion in Vietnam
Riding on the successful launch of this first plant, four more water treatment plants are being planned for Vietnam by the end of this year, which will be based on De.Mem’s decentralised water network model. The upcoming plants include a retrofit of an existing 2,000 square metres facility, which will also be a joint venture with GD Wasser and financed by New Asia Investments.
Andreas Kroell, Director of New Asia Investments said MINT’s new model is very appropriate for developing countries such as Vietnam, as it reduces cost for communities and companies, while supplying better quality water.
“Our investment in De.mem and GD Wasser meets a strong market need for modern, but cost-efficient de-centralized water treatment technologies in SE Asia,” Mr Kroell said. “The synergies with the know-how of MINT and the leading expertise of NTU in this space provide an excellent basis for further expansion of the business model.”