Thursday, 24 July 2008


My French student is leaving today, so the supply of free assistance to my regular clients has ended!

The digestion experiments on PCB containing oily sludge seemed to give gently promising results, at least at 35C, so we may investigate further.

No problems with the turning down of the duff ETP's flow rate, so the client now has a bid for doing what is required to control the remaining non-compliances.

An enquiry for a metals removal plant came in this week, looks interesting, but the enquirer wants a free visit to discuss the job up-front, which may be problematic. I always find one can tell a serious from a speculative enquiry by whether the client will pay to meet you.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Troubleshooting and Experiments

Spent a long day yesterday troubleshooting problems with the duff effluent treatment plant for the pharma client previously discussed. Managed to solve his excessive flow to sewer by simply restricting air flow to his diaphragm pumps. The client had not thought of this because he was convinced that his effluent flow rate was around five times its actual value. Always good to check your assumptions. Couldn't get his pH correction system online, due to problems with an injection lance, but increasing the alum dose brought the pH into spec. anyway. Just the problems with COD, suspended solids and heavy metals to solve now.

Also had a call from the Environment Agency yesterday about a former client who has tried to solve his own problems with an undersized effluent treatment plant. Like a lot of inexpert clients with such problems, he had been duped by a succession of snake-oil salesmen into trying all sorts of quick fixes, none of which had worked. He only carried out the cheaper of my recommendations, as cheaply as possible, and now it seems he is likely to get prosecuted.

The morals are:

1. All the magic bugs, fat dissolvers, swimming-pool filters and chemical dosing in the world will not save you if your plant is not the right size, installed, operated and maintained correctly. If it is correctly designed, installed, operated and maintained, you will not need these things.

2. If you spend money on a consultant, follow his suggestions. Waving a report whose suggestions you did not implement at the EA will not save you from prosecution.

Experiments on PCB containing oily sludges are going OK, in the strict scientific sense. That is, we have no growth yet of either anaerobic or aerobic organisms on the stuff. Of course, from a practical point of view, this disappoints.

Monday, 7 July 2008


"Run your car on water": hxxp:// (url altered to avoid bumping their Google position) This guy's "invention" produces hydrogen and oxygen from water by electrolysis, and then you burn the mixture to drive your car. The site is full of anecdotal reports that this boosts fuel economy by 60%. This is basically a development of a long-discredited perpetual motion machine. This is even more stupid than my favourite crank site of all.

In case you don't know why, ignore driving the wheels, imagine a system where we just charge the battery. When we burn the hydrogen, we lose some energy as heat. Some of the energy goes to drive the alternator, which puts electricity in the battery, again with some inefficiency, lost as heat. The energy in the battery produces oxygen, hydrogen and more heat. We burn the hydrogen, much less than before due to loss of energy as heat...The energy obtained by burning the hydrogen is always less than the energy it took to make it. No perpetual motion, no energy from water, no two ways about it. Second law of thermodynamics. Look it up.

Then on the same day, I get a communication from from the get rich quick team at at hxxp://, offering the same thing. Now I know fuel is expensive, but wishful thinking isn't going to make it better.

I'm incidentally presently running my Landrover Discovery 200 TDi on around 40% soya oil at 87p a litre from Costco. That's a practical solution for cars that will take it. "Carbon neutral" and cheap too. Of course Costco soya oil is made from GM beans from cleared Brazilian rainforest, and is therefore evil Frankenfuel. LOL.