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Eight Reasons to Outsource your Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Plant

Marcus Green
January 18, 2024
3 minute read
Operations and Maintenance

MBR technology continues to gain traction in the Food and Beverage sector due to its effectiveness in producing high-quality effluent with a compact design. This leads to more sustainable water management by ensuring adherence to stringent environmental regulations and enabling water reuse.

While MBR plants offer many benefits, they pose challenges such as running costs and the risk of disruption and irreversible damage if mismanaged. Outsourcing to a specialist like Alpheus addresses these challenges and adds tangible value to your bottom line by delivering savings and valuable expertise.

1. Reduce energy costs  

Without proactive monitoring and management, tubular membranes are prone to fouling leading to escalating energy costs. It is a common problem, and often customers are unaware of the scale of the damage until they experience disruption and rising energy costs. Several sites have approached us at this stage. We have been able to implement recovery programmes to deliver cost savings, improved performance, and ongoing optimisation and we continue to manage many of these plants. Read Bakkavor’s story, including how we delivered £10k a month in energy savings.

By engaging an expert like Alpheus before a problem occurs, you can avoid expensive energy costs and downtime.

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2. Maximise production and minimise disruption

Ongoing preventive maintenance and optimisation of membranes alongside effective management of the composition and flow of the influent will keep the plant running smoothly to prevent disruption and bottlenecks. This enhances the plant’s resilience improving the ability to address incidents which reduces the risk of compliance breaches and production downtime.

As an example, we recently started managing a site where the balance tank level was almost constantly at full capacity due to membrane underperformance. Through detailed analysis, improved maintenance and cleaning, the throughput was increased by over 10% building critical resilience into the system. The balance tank is now consistently at half capacity, significantly reducing the risk of breaches and factory disruption.

3. Increase asset lifespan

Membranes are expensive and typically have a service life of three to seven years. However, if cared for effectively this can often be extended. Proactive and preventative maintenance of membranes is proven to maximise their lifespan, which can deliver significant cost savings in terms of the schedule for replacement. Once the effluent is fully understood and managed, Alpheus creates a bespoke preventative maintenance, monitoring, and cleaning program for each site. This ensures that the membranes are working in optimum condition at all times to extend service life.

Read how we helped a leading plant-based food and drink manufacturer avoid replacing severely fouled membranes, turn around performance and deliver energy and tankering cost savings through improvements.

4. Lower operating costs

In addition to keeping energy costs as low as possible, a specialist provider can pass on savings on consumables costs. We recently saved a leading supplier of freshly prepared food 76% in cleaning chemical costs (following a short trial for effectiveness). Keeping membranes operating at optimum levels will also keep sludge tankering costs in check.

Data and learning from other sites, as well as our own wastewater treatment facilities enables us to share knowledge across all sites to improve operations and maintenance efficiencies, such as process changes, that can make particular jobs easier, quicker, safer, or less expensive.

5. Compliance assurance

MBR technology is excellent at ensuring compliance, but a rupture, if undetected, can lead to discharge breaches - risking fines and reputation damage. If the treated effluent is to be further treated for reuse on-site, damage caused by solids entering the nano filtration (NF) or reverse osmosis (RO) treatment system as a result of rupture can be costly to rectify. Ruptures often stem from extreme stress due to poor maintenance, inadequate cleaning or untrained operators increasing pump speeds to overcome drops in permeate flow.

As a specialist provider, we have robust proactive and preventative monitoring, and management processes in place to prevent ruptures and a highly trained team to service and repair assets.

6. Access to industry-leading knowledge and practices

Effective management of these complex membranes requires specialist knowledge, regular monitoring and an ongoing process of proactive maintenance and optimisation.

As part of the Anglian Water Group, and through over 30 years of expertise in designing, building and managing numerous membrane plants our customers benefit from insight, efficiency and the latest best practices and training for their local teams. This includes the provision of 24/7 monitoring capabilities; support and call-out services; and even access to out-of-the-box thinking when dealing with unforeseen challenges.

7. Empower your local team

Unless you have a new plant, there will likely be a person or team managing your membrane plant. For sites we take on, we TUPE the team to Alpheus and provide intensive training and access to support. Here’s a comment from Steven Garwell, who was an Operator at a Bakkavor site in Boston (and is now a Service Delivery Manager).

“A highlight for me has been the greater access to resources and support…We not only gained valuable insights from the training programme but also found inspiration for making improvements on-site. The culture of empowerment and support enabled us to implement a series of changes that have significantly improved plant performance.”

8. Focus on your core business

Outsourcing allows companies to concentrate on their core competencies, enhancing overall business efficiency. By delegating MBR plant management to experts you can channel your energy and resources toward strategic growth areas – with the assurance that your water and waste management is in compliance with regulations and is achieving peak performance to enable production to thrive.

The Alpheus Approach‍

An efficient water treatment process is essential to the smooth operation of any Food and Beverage manufacturing facility, so we work with you as a partnership rather than as just an outsourced arrangement. We aim to help you work towards your long-term goals and ensure smooth day-to-day operations management.

We have highly skilled people with significant expertise to undertake a process of monitoring, sampling and analysis. This gives us trend data and other results which help us to identify changes we can make to improve performance for all of our clients. We take pride in delivering continuous improvements for our customers, to help realise benefits and optimise performance in the medium to longer term. Any improvement deliverables promised at the tender stage can be built into your Service Level Agreement prior to the contract and partnership commencing.

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