Generating green hydrogen from wastewater without consuming a single drop of water, a biological technology for the elimination of nitrates, the creation of pharmaceutical factories, innovative municipal wastewater treatment plants and other projects are a sample of the work developed by Ingeobras. Thanks to its work, this Aragonese company has already accumulated eight European Commission seals of excellence in R&D projects and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism considers its activity to be of general interest due to its socioeconomic impact and contribution to technological innovation.
“With prefabricated plants of our own technology we are mainly in three areas: Spain and Portugal, Chile and starting in the United States, but as engineering we reach many other places such as Azerbaijan, Uganda or Great Britain,” says Joaquín Murría, CEO of this firm located in the Business and Innovation Center of Aragon (CEEI). In this way, what began in 2005 as a traditional engineering SME, over the years, took on an international vocation and a desire for innovation.
It was after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti when Ingeobras began its journey beyond national borders. In the Caribbean country it built a hospital that was the first work outside Spain as a “turnkey” project. “Since then, more than 200 have been carried out in 20 countries,” he says.
Initiatives such as, for example, the transformation into irrigation of 25,000 hectares in Azerbaijan over the last 8 years, works that include the largest irrigation system in Europe executed in a single project.
In terms of innovation, its path began about a decade ago, when it joined Zinnae, the cluster for the efficient use of water. From there, this commitment to R&D found “a turning point” in 2019, when the European Union awarded them in competitive concurrence with Anaergy, a project funded by the EU SME program H2020 SME Instrument Phase 2 (now called Accelerator).
Aragón Circular Seal
At its CEEI facilities, in addition to the activity associated with this project, “new technologies for water treatment and energy generation from wastewater are developed, validated and demonstrated, depending on the level of technological maturity,” says Sofía Quintana, head of marketing, communication and new markets at Ingeobras.
The result of its work is the recognition, in 2021, of its technology for the generation of biological green hydrogen from wastewater, which Ecodes selected as one of the 101 business examples for the climate for being the only green hydrogen generation technology that does not consume water. The following year, the regional government selected the company in the first call of the Aragón Circular seal, whose mission is to show a public certification to the commitment with the circular economy model.
All this development led to the company’s decision to create a new brand for its R&D business line, Inngen.io, focused exclusively on innovation and R&D.
Now, works such as the water treatment plant recently built in Torrent (Valencia), the plant for the elimination of nitrogen and phosphorus in a mining operation in Ecuador or the subway building built for the aging of wines from Bodegas San Alejandro (Cariñena), are some of the examples of their work.
Bacteria to eliminate nitrates
Ingeobras puts its technologies into the Biobox brand, under which it sells as a finished product the fruit of all its technological development, and specializes in creating and putting into operation fully automated prefabricated and compact water treatment plants.
In this sense, the company explains that each solution is designed “tailor-made”, especially for small and medium flow rates, since Biobox’s approach “is based on making advanced technology available to all types of companies”, all this “in the smallest possible space and without the need for personnel operating continuously in the plant”.
The company’s equipment is offered in prefabricated format, in a container or skid, to occupy as little space as possible, which reduces investment costs, manufacturing time and customer inconvenience. “Although, if necessary, special executions can also be developed, adapting to specific requirements or existing installations,” emphasizes Murría.
Thus, the company offers plants with its own technology for the treatment of water containing nitrates, but also those affected by other pollutants such as iron and manganese, ammonium, phosphorus, organic matter and heavy metals. However, denitrification stands out because of the urgency of a problem that is present “all over the world”.
In Spain, for example, it is found in the Mar Menor, in Murcia, an area particularly damaged by nitrates. There, Biobox has carried out a pilot experiment that has demonstrated its elimination by 97%.
For this treatment, the company uses bacteria -completely safe- that kill nitrates and, in doing so, emit nitrogen into the atmosphere. This is an advantage over the reverse osmosis method, they say, because it separates the water from the pollutant, but does not eliminate it. Finally, the treated water is exposed to ultraviolet lamps and other protective equipment to be completely disinfected.
In December 2021, Biobox also installed a pilot plant to demonstrate the effectiveness of its technology for Ammonium at the ETAP Pelayos de la Presa, one of the plants managed by Canal de Isabel II, the Spanish public company that undertakes the management of the integral water cycle in almost the entire Community of Madrid. In this case, the system’s efficiency ranged from 90 to 100%.
In addition, the company has real success stories in different parts of the world, such as biological denitrification plants in Calaf, Formiche Alto, Falset, La Eliana and the aforementioned plants in Ecuador and Torrent.