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The Battle on Brine – Lesico Cleantech

By: Mickey Chesla

Lesico Cleantech operates in the challenging field of brackish water desalination and brine management, with an extensive expertise and knowledge gained from Ben Gurion University. The company has signed a contract in Australia which continues until 2016, and in Mexico it is in the midst of a commercial pilot project. A great start in a huge market…

Saline water is an extremely large source of available water – but is only used in 19% of all desalination plants worldwide, as opposed to the increase in the use of desalinized seawater across the globe.

Saline water is not often selected for use, and this is due to the fact that it’s difficult to treat the brine which remains after the desalination process is complete. Although it’s far from ideal, seawater offers the easier option of returning the brine to the sea. Water desalination however is a process which is often carried out far from the sea, making treating brine an expensive and challenging process.

Brine is also created when treating water in the mining industry and other heavy industries. One of the companies that have taken on the challenge of overall brine treatment is Lesico Cleantech, a company located in Holon Israel, established in 2006 by Nissim Asaf, today Lesico’s CEO.

Lesico’s activities are based on commercializing knowledge from the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben Gurion University, expertise which has been promoted by Prof. Ora Kedem, Dr. Jack Gilron, Dr. Rami Messalem and Dr. Charles Linder.

One of the company’s technologies, and already commercially active, is the WAIV – Wind Aided Intensified Evaporation, which is a wind assisted accelerated brine evaporation process. In Melbourne, Australia, one of the company’s commercial pilot projects has already been completed successfully. As a result Lesico Cleantech signed a 4-year contract with ORICA Water Care, one of the largest water infrastructure companies in Australia, with an extension option for an additional 4 years. As outlined in the agreement, ORICA is committed to investing up to $7 million, by 2015.

According to Mr. Asaf, the technology has been taken up both in Australia and Mexico, in facilities owned by leading corporations, such as the top Australian gas provider SANTOS, a company Lesico reached through ORICA. “At SANTOS, we implemented a large commercial pilot in the field of coal seam gas” explains Mr. Asaf.

And what does brine have to do with coal seam gas? The gas production processes require a great deal of water, and when the water is pumped back from the mine, they are contaminated and thus need treatment. In order to once again utilize the water, it is treated in membranes, which results in a great deal of brine. At this point, Lesico Cleantech gets involved.

According to Mr. Asaf, the WAIV is a technology that causes the brine to evaporate in an accelerated manner, across an area which is 10 to 15 times smaller than an area needed for evaporation ponds (a common method of treating brine in inland pools), and entailing capital costs that are lower by 30%-40%.

This technology originated in Israel, and is implemented in Mekorot’s brine desalination plant in Kzti’ot, the largest brine desalination plant in the country.

Lesico’s second technology, an electro dialysis water desalination membrane process, is in its final stages of development. It is a High Recovery System, in other words a system with the capacity to take any amount of saline water and extract a higher percentage of fresh water.

Lesico’s success outside of Israel was achieved thanks to the solid support given by The Ministry of Industry’s Israel Newtech program and The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute. With a promising contract in Australia, it seems that Lesico is looking at a bright future, both in market size and revenue.


Lesico's WAIV project in Australia

Lesico's WAIV project in Autralia

    Desalination, Start-ups, Wastewater Reclamation, Water
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