He could’ve been a sailor, but he ended up working with fresh water instead. Pierre Serna, an engineer, worked on offshore oil rigs for a long time before returning to dry land. In 1990, he returned home to France and created Serinol with some of his associates. At the age of 47, this dedicated professional started from scratch to create a company that was in line with his values.
When you talk to Pierre Serna, you quickly understand that everything is a matter of chemistry, or even alchemy. Not in the sense of transforming metal into gold, but in the sense of, “Purifying the impure by imitating nature to perfect the materia, except here we’re talking about water. “I’ve always been interested in phase separation processes.” Pierre Serna is a chemical engineer, specifically a process engineer. His aim is to implement “an orderly sequence of operations resulting in something”, basically, he finds solutions to problems. Since 1990, after studying seawater and oil fields, he became interested in pre-treatment machines for industrial and domestic wastewater to mechanically separate out the suspended particles in the water. In 1993, the first machine was produced, a rotary sieve, followed by over 20 more machines to complete the range. All these tools are designed to mechanically separate out suspended particles in water.
Treating wastewater is a relatively new phenomenon, less than 100 years old. The purification process (the origin of wastewater treatment plants) dates back to 1914 when bacteria were activated to break down the waste in tanks of water that had been set up. Before then, wastewater was just drained off, causing hygiene and odour problems and spreading diseases like cholera. Increased awareness of the need for water quality has led to the development of techniques to clean up soiled water. In France, the first wastewater treatment plant came into existence in 1940 in Yvelines (Achères plant). The process is simple, the sludge from the wastewater is stored in open-air tanks so the water is oxygenated and the bacteria are activated in a natural way.
Since the 1960s, the quality of surface water has been deteriorating. Large investments were made and the Water Act of 16 December 1964 led to the creation of water agencies to preserve this precious resource. In addition to a biological treatment, there is a physico-chemical treatment used to speed up the particle separation process by adding chemical products (flocculants, coagulants, etc.). As the population has grown and industry and leisure infrastructure with it – in particular seaside and ski resorts – wastewater treatment equipment was refined. A new pre-treatment step was also added to these decantation methods for greater efficiency. That’s where Serinol comes in.
Serinol is based in Bram, between Toulouse and Carcassonne. Pierre works with engineers, boilermakers, and fitters and testers, among others, to build a multidisciplinary team and ensure all phases, from design to production of the machines, are developed internally. The company operates downstream of the settling basins and offers high-performance tools adapted to each type of waste to separate out these famous phases.
“In a lot of industries, you find this phase separation steps. Whether that’s noble distillation to produce Cognac, for example, or by filtration, decanting, flotation, etc. It’s a real challenge.”
To understand how a seemingly simple step is actually a very complicated process, the founder wants to share a few examples.
“We are able to provide tools for industrial and domestic waste. In an abattoir, there might be three or four tonnes of material to extract. In this case, we use a compactor (compactors and screw conveyors like the SERCOMP, ECOCOMP, SERCOMP + or the SERVIS) to ensure that the screening and sifting rejects are compacted and conveyed, which will press the matter to reduce its volume. In the wastewater from towns and cities, there is a lot of fatty, oily matter. We have a range of scraped aerated degreasers (SERDAR) and dissolved air flotation units (SERDAF). We inject air to create micro-bubbles that attach to the particles and drive them to the surface like a buoy.”
Although some of these processes already existed, Serinol’s strength has been refining the processes to increase efficiency, ease of operation, and operator safety. The materials used are sustainable and robust (stainless steel adapted to the clients’ use), and the machines are manufactured in France. Furthermore, given their specialisation, the company is constantly researching and improving. So, a machine that used to require almost daily maintenance no longer needs a dedicated operator. Clients also avoid expensive operations that are potentially dangerous for operators. “In 2004, on some machines, you could have up to 14 taps that needed turning on to clean them and since 2015, all devices have a single clog-proof trigger point that does not require a trained operator to be present” adds Pierre Serna. Thanks to the high-quality services and the serious team, Serinol has been able to win the confidence of their clients and sells about 15 flotation units per day to water treatment manufacturers.
“I’ve been working with Serinol for over 25 years. Their machines are reliable, simple, and robust. They have great teams and they’re always looking to improve. Serinol offers a wide range of products and I have never had an issue with the after-sales service, they’re very efficient”, explains a client, owner of a wastewater treatment company.
The family business has found its place among the giants in the sector so that each project, whatever its scope, can provide a solution. Customer feedback is very positive and constructive, and contributes to improving the range. Based in France, Serinol’s customer service department guarantees that every client gets high-performance repairs on their equipment. Since there is no planned obsolescence, the machines are reliable and long-lasting.
Far from resting on their laurels, the company continues to innovate. The latest model, which left the factory in 2021, is the SERFLOC GT. It’s a new system that allows the degrees of turbulence in the flow to be very accurately controlled to achieve optimum coagulation and flocculation. It’s a new machine in both process and form that drastically reduces the clogs that regularly happen on these devices. Serinol is also developing their range to meet their customers’ needs even more effectively. The company’s reliability and longevity are a guarantee of trust. Serinol is continuously making improvements so that water, being the rare resource that it is, can be treated.
References: Center for information on water (cieau.com)
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