OSIL launches cold war on bad odours

Written by: RWW | Published:

Odour and air pollution control specialist OSIL’s strong links with academia is enabling the company to lead the way when it comes to innovation in odour control. Guy Forrest-Hay, OSIL's sales & business development director explains.

Odour and air pollution control specialists OSIL have devised a microbiological solution to one of the ‘bug’ bears of the industry - namely wasted bacteria, or inoculums to give them their proper title.

Having carefully selected the appropriate bacteria to consume and ‘cleanse’ the malodorous components that are the root cause of bad smells, be it in the water and waste, recycling or food and beverage industries, it is a cause of immense frustration and cost when the opportunity to apply the inoculums - or seed the bio filter – does not happen due to unforeseen site delays and the specially prepared cultures pass their use-by-date. 

Biological filtration is one of the most commonly applied methods for the treatment of odours in the waste and recycling sectors.  They provide a robust and environmentally sustainable solution and offer an attractive alternative to non-biological processes, such as chemical scrubbing, which can often have secondary and potentially challenging waste arisings to consider.

Currently bacteria is provided by companies such as OSIL in three different components. These comprise fresh beads, broth and nutrient powder. The principal advantage to these formats is that they provide a temporary protection to allow the inoculums to adapt and colonise the biofilter bed - the engineered environment where the bad odour molecules are broken down. In addition, the beads are degradable and will slowly release the inoculums into the bio-filter.

Limited shelf life

One major drawback to date though is their limited shelf-life. If stored at room temperature, beads only remain effective for up to a week while the broth lasts just three to four days. When kept refrigerated, that time frame can be doubled. With the powder format, cautious application is required - especially in strong winds.

“Recently we made up a large batch of inoculums for a client and it all went to waste at some considerable cost because it had been taken out of storage and on to site but could not be used because of an unplanned delay,” explains Dr Wan Li Low, an award-winning microbiologist from Wolverhampton University who works in collaboration with OSIL via the successful Knowledge Transfer Programme (KTP).

“There are other disadvantages to the traditional methods of inoculum component delivery. If a large volume of inoculum is required it may take some time to achieve production requirements in the lab, because they need to be produced to order on a site specific basis, and the bulk means there could also be issues with storage, handling and transport,” explains Dr Low.

“Over the last two years we have been working on a solution, whereby the beads are freeze dried, which will take these sorts of problems out of the equation.” 

Cold comfort

Due to be launched in early 2015, freeze drying provides industrial plant owners looking to eradicate an odour problem with more flexibility as the product can be kept for at least six months when stored in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. Transportation is easier too, as the size and weight of the product is much reduced. 

Importantly, freeze dried inoculums are just as effective in terms of their protective properties as their ‘live counterparts’ and are easily rehydrated or ‘brought back to life’ by an initial soaking prior to despatch. One other advantage to freeze drying is that the inoculums can be made available as shelf stock. “Freeze drying will be the ultimate for OSIL because it will enable us to have a stockholding of inoculums that are just as effective and ready to use as and when the client requires,” says Dr Low, who is currently working on identifying and cultivating new bacteria to combat the ever increasing range of odour producing compounds. 

A recent study identified in excess of 130 contributing compounds on a typical waste treatment and recycling facility. With no one bacteria strain suitable for all compounds, OSIL’s expertise in combining a microbiological population, which delivers guaranteed robust odour treatment, continues to prove to be invaluable to the sector.

Super bugs 

As well as advancements in the delivery of existing inoculums to site, OSIL is creating a new generation of non-chemical odour bio filtration systems to tackle new species of malodorous compounds including organo sulphur compounds, which are playing an increasing role, particularly with the new breed of waste to energy plants. Dr Low again: “Organo sulphur compounds have low solubility in water so you can’t go down the chemical route. We are currently working on a biological solution to tackle this latest challenge in odour control.”

A number of other projects are in the pipeline as OSIL seeks to maintain market leadership through innovation. One exciting development is the concept of combining treatment processes, such as carbon, adsorption and a biological filtration stage in one air treatment unit.

“The bridging of knowledge from academia and industry is constantly driving improvements and innovations. Continuous research and development efforts at OSIL will further improve, and eventually tailor-make the ‘cocktail’ of inoculums to suit the demands of the industry,” concludes Dr Low.

Fact file: Knowledge Transfer Partnership and OSIL

The work Dr Wan Li Low has been carrying out with OSIL through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) - an initiative which supports UK businesses wanting to improve their performance by accessing the expertise available within UK universities and colleges - has been so successful the microbiologist has been awarded a KTP Business Leader of Tomorrow award. The KTP has also been awarded the highest grade of ‘outstanding’ by the Technology Strategy Board for its work in finding advanced microbiological odour control solutions.


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