ACWA Celebrates 25 Years Of Success
27 February 2012, News release from ACWA Services
Managing Director Peter Ripley looks back over the past quarter century
In 2012 ACWA Services celebrates 25 years of success in the water industry, a period during which the company has achieved widespread international acclaim and success, and grown from one employee to well over 100.
In the month that the Oprah Winfrey show first started and just before the Phantom of the Opera made its theatre debut three employees of an international water treatment company set up their own business, based in a broom cupboard belonging to a wool scouring firm in Bradford.
Managing Director Peter Ripley remembers: 'This meant the day usually started with a certain amount of stress on the olfactory organs.' As the company grew, it expanded within the building and then moved to its current headquarters on the Acorn Business Park in Skipton in 1992. This office was officially opened in January 1993 by the then Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, local MP David Curry.
ACWA's first project was for Dale Farm Foods, which later became part of Northern Foods, closely followed by Ruddles Brewery in Langham and synthetic fibre manufacturer Finicisa in Portugal.
In 1987, ACWA received an order from cereals giant Kelloggs for its new plant in Wrexham - and in 2011, 24 years later, received a further order for updates - a testament to the quality and durability of the original equipment.
The company's early work focused on the UK food and beverage industry, but in 1998 the company broke new ground with international orders for equipment to treat oily water, wastewater and gas scrubbing liquors in Norway. The company's first £1 million-plus order arrived in 1989 from the Ford Motor Company in Swansea.
In 1992, Consolidated Contractors Co (CCC) became the majority shareholder and ACWA embarked on a period of expansion through acquisition and organic growth. The company bought a consultancy, an equipment manufacturer and an anaerobic technology - ultimately the consultancy business was sold and the other interests were incorporated into the core business.
In 1991, the company expanded into water treatment and air pollution control. Initially, the water treatment business was membrane focused, with its first contract being for a reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant in Yemen. While RO remained a mainstay of the business, the company rapidly expanded into the entire water treatment spectrum.
The air pollution control business began with sales of wet and dry scrubbers, incinerator gas cleaning and odour control equipment. By the end of 1994, revenues from this stream were in excess of £700,000 per annum, soaring to £1.8 million in 1995. Removal of VOCs using thermal oxidisers became part of the company portfolio in 1996.
Other technologies that became part of the company offering include high rate biofiltration, activated sludge and dissolved air flotation. In 1994, the company provided anaerobic reactor plants to Tunnel Refinery in London and then Sabic in Saudi Arabia, starting a series of increasingly prestigious and revenue-positive contracts.
The company's watershed year was 1996, when the order book topped £17 million including a £7 million order from Yorkshire Water - an unusual drought alleviation project that involved treating water from a flooded opencast coal mine south of Leeds. The design-build-operate RO plant contract provided over 20,000m3/day of much-needed water for 10 months.
Further major contracts followed including a major project for food giant Nestlé, RO plants for nitrate removal at Anglian Water, nanofiltration plants for colour removal at Scottish Water and a major contract for high-purity water supplying a ring main servicing industrial clients of Hartlepool Water on North Teesside.
The first contract for ACWA's acclaimed Amtreat® process, which provides effective treatment for high-strength ammonia liquors, was won in 1998. In this year the first plant was installed at Anglian Water's Cliff Quay site followed by a major project at Southern Water's Ashford wastewater treatment works.
The air pollution control business received a major boost in 2001 with its largest order to date, worth £2.3 million, from Rolls Royce in Derby. In 2002, CCC's growing reputation in the Middle East brought in contracts for wastewater treatment works in Jordan and Sharjah, the latter being the largest to date at over £8 million.
With the increasing public enthusiasm for recycling treated effluent, ACWA entered the membrane bioreactor (MBR) market, purchasing Aquator Bahrain and Aquator Emirates in 2004, which held the Kubota licence for the Middle East. This move was swiftly followed by a £4 million contract for the world-famous Al Ansab project.
ACWA relocated its Middle East office to Dubai in 2005, and business has prospered with over 30 completed MBR plants as well as many traditional systems. The company also developed containerized MBR plants, which have proved extremely popular.
ACWA's novel and highly-efficient Nitreat® system was developed in 2005. The technology uses a multiport valve and ion exchange to remove nitrate from potable water. This technology has also proved extremely popular, with early sales to Thames Water and Anglian Water. These were followed by further sales to these utilities and to Cambridge Water, Severn Trent and Yorkshire Water - the latter for a 90MLD plant, the largest to date. In this year, ACWA's sales also topped £20 million for the first time.
In 2006, the company's success story recorded another high, with revenue topping £66 million largely due to a prestigious contract to build two seawater desalination units for the Palm Jumeirah complex in Dubai. This project was one of the first to combine ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis to treat the highly disturbed Gulf seawater - huge amounts of silt from the formation of the islands were devastating the marine environment, necessitating the development of novel pretreatment technology.
The ongoing success in the Middle East saw the relocation of the ACWA Emirates subsidiary to the Le Solarium Building in the Dubai Silicon Oasis in October 2008. From here, the company has undertaken prestigious projects such as provision of an MBR for the King Abdullah University for Science & Technology (KAUST) in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, an MBR system for the new Sheikh Makhtoum airport at Jebel Ali, and a current project to provide an RO system for the Princess Nouria University for Women in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In March 2010 ACWA established a joint venture with a US company to establish ACWA Clear in Bakersfield, California. This office has undertaken a number of projects, and the company continues to grow.
Other international business includes unique gas cleaning projects in China, USA and Vietnam for Pilkington NSG that combine particulate removal, thermal oxidation, dry scrubbing and heat recovery.
Mr Ripley says: 'For the future, ACWA is committed to growth across a wide range of developments - leveraging entrepreneurial technologies, developing established markets and moving into the fast-growing PPP market. Alliances and frameworks are becoming more popular, with long-term partnerships providing mutual efficiencies, and we see entering these markets as a natural step that will fully leverage both our wide-ranging expertise and client benefits.
'Our first 25 years have seen remarkable growth and acclaim around the world: we look forward with confidence and anticipation to the successes of the next quarter century.'
For further information please email ACWA Services