We are talking to Director of SIGMA Kula, Dragan Kapičić about the company’s plans and its 30th anniversary of successful operations.
This year, you are celebrating 30 years of the company’s successful operations. From the viewpoint of the leading company in your branch, could you tell us more about your business activities during this period – from ideas to their realization, implementation of standards and market needs?
— Sigma was founded in 1989. We had the first contact with a team of scientists from Belgrade’s Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, led by Professor Nedeljko Krstajić, PhD, in 1994 when the development of the first commercial HLOROGEN plant for the production of 1% sodium hypochlorite solution in the place of consumption began. The development of this first model lasted two years and was fully funded from the company’s own money. After two years of designing, developing and demonstrating the parameters, the first HLOROGEN plant was installed and put into operation in the Bezdan water supply system. This plant still works to this day, 23 years later, without a single day of stoppage, which proves that the shortest exploitation period of our equipment is 25 years. As the network of our users began to grow, a need arose for automating the process of dosing disinfectant in the water.
So, parallel with the development and improvement of HLOROGEN technology, we started developing the Automatic Dosing System (ADS). The issue of dosage automation is solved through the use of measuring and control elements that measure the level of chlorine (residual chlorine) in the treated water and the water flow. This provides two basic types of ADSR dosing systems – Automatic Dosing System, based on the residual, and ADSP – Automatic Dosing System, based on flow. The uniqueness of all our systems and technical solutions is that all work elements are made in pairs – OPERATIONAL – SPARE, which ensures complete security and reliability in that in the event of a failure of the work system due to damage, the spare automatically takes over the operations which means that the process of disinfection is not interrupted for one single moment. As a result of closely following the market needs, in 2010, we started developing OksiHLOROGEN equipment for the production of MIXED DISINFECTANT in the place of consumption. The mixed disinfectant is a mixture of sodium hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide. This entails the synergy of two strong disinfectants and oxidation solids that solve the problems of disinfection of drinking water that is rich in organic humic substances. This is a particularly pronounced problem in the area of the Pannonian Basin (Vojvodina, Slavonia, Baranja, Hungary, Tamisz Banat) where there is a noticeable presence of organic humic substances. Regular disinfection of such water with chlorine or technical sodium hypochlorite is not possible, as in this case trihalomethanes are formed which are potentially cancerous. The use of OksiHLOROGEN technology and MIXED DISINFECTANT ensures effective and safe disinfection of drinking water rich in organic humic substances.
Serbia possesses the technology for automatic and ecologically safe chlorination of drinking water, as well as disinfection of wastewater, swimming pool water and water in water parks. Is this technology sufficiently used?
— So far, the benefits of our technical solutions have been recognized in over 150 locations in the Republic of Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary and Croatia. Waterworks are definitely our biggest users (from small rural waterworks to large regional waterworks such as the one in Novi Sad). In addition to the water supply systems, our equipment is used by medical institutions (Clinical Centre Novi Sad, Special Hospital in Junaković Spa), food industry (meat producers Carnex and Neoplanta), swimming pools and public baths (SPENS Novi Sad, ADICA Recreation Centre in Ada) and wastewater filtering facilities (DRV Siófok, Hungary, Nemesgulács plant). Currently, over 1.1 million people use water treated with our technology. There are about 3,000 local water supply systems in Serbia, and wastewater treatment plants are still in their infancy, so there is still plenty of room for improvement of the safety of water supply systems in the Republic of Serbia and removal of hazardous chemicals from use. Environmental protection and health and safety of citizens are one of the main prerequisites for Serbia’s accession into the EU, and our company is certainly ready to contribute to the safe water supply of all people in our country and the region.
SIGMA’s core business activity is the production of HLOROGEN and OksiHLOROGEN equipment for the production of disinfectant for completely harmless water chlorination. This technology is unique, and in accordance with the standards you apply and experience, a number of your clients and partners have recognized its quality. What are its benefits and what future does this kind of technology have?
— The users of the technological equipment produced by our company have recognized several important benefits. Safety is certainly the number one benefit. Thanks to the HLOROGEN and OksiHLOROGEN technology, using hazardous substances in the disinfection process was made obsolete. By hazardous substances, we mean gas chlorine, which is an extremely dangerous and deadly gas which had been used as a poison during the two world wars. Our technology ensures a safe working environment for workers and all other people because by eliminating hazardous substances from their surroundings. Safety has also been demonstrated when registering biocides with the Register of Biocidal Products of the Republic of Serbia during which a Safety Data Sheet has been drafted in accordance with the CLP / GHS Directive. Another important benefit is independence. By applying our technology, users have become independent from suppliers and importers of chemicals. By using HLOROGEN and Oksi-HLOROGEN equipment each user is practically a disinfectant manufacturer for himself. With the use of three commonly available raw materials, electricity, water and table salt, in a completely safe and environmentally friendly technological process, we have a disinfectant is safe for human health and the environment. The safety of this disinfectant, as well as its effectiveness, has been demonstrated by laboratories of the Dr Milan Jovanović Batut Institute of Public Health of Serbia. The third benefit is certainly economic. The use of HLOROGEN and OksiHLOROGEN cuts back costs by a minimum of 45% compared to the costs of purchasing a disinfectant from regular suppliers. The justification of this calculation lies in the application of three very affordable raw materials for the production of disinfectant (electricity, water and table salt). Since, in this case, the disinfectant is produced in the place of consumption, there are no transportation costs associated with it. In the event that the user has to transport the disinfectant at some of its distant locations, there are no special requirements for transport associated with the ADR transport of hazardous goods, and the disinfectant can be transported in its own packaging, in accordance with the Safety Data Sheet. When you put all the benefits together, it is clear to see that Sigma Kula’s technology is a synergistic solution to a number of existential issues related to safe, reliable and quality water supply.
You have been constantly investing in product development and quality, and you are planning to build a new plant in the Kula industrial zone that will mass produce this new product. Could you tell us more about that?
— After more than 20 years of experience in the disinfection of drinking water, and after we registered our disinfectants as biocidal products with the Register of Biocidal Products of the Republic of Serbia, we decided that the time has come to offer the market a reliable and safe disinfectant for working surfaces for a wide range of use. Because of the way the disinfectants Aqualor H (sodium hypochlorite) and Oxylor (mixed disinfectant) are produced and because of the composition they fall into the category of GREEN CHEMICALS that are completely harmless for human consumption and the environment. According to CLP / GHS directives, these preparations are registered for use in disinfection in households and public health institutions, veterinary hospitals, surfaces that come in contact with food for humans and animals and, of course, for disinfection of drinking water. After the plant is finished and commissioned, we are going to contribute to employment in our local community by hiring new workers.
Your company’s mission is to maintain a leadership position in your branch and winning over other markets thanks to the implementation of relevant standards, your product quality and continuous improvement of technology and staff. Which global markets do you see as potential partners?
— Due to the geographical proximity and similar soil composition, as well as due to the similar water quality, great potential lies in the countries of the region, primarily the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Hungary. The first HLOROGEN plants were opened in these two countries at the end of last year. In order to enter the markets of EU countries that are close to us, SIGMA d.o.o. has invested a lot of money and effort into obtaining quality certificates for our equipment. The biggest challenge was obtaining the CE mark as the closest laboratory that could perform the necessary tests was in Ljubljana. After obtaining the CE mark for HLOROGEN, OksiHLOROGEN and Automatic Dosing System, our next major challenge preparing for the registration with the EU Biocide Register. We have invested a lot of funds and effort in creating the necessary conditions under the EU laws so that we will successfully register our products with this register. SIGMA d.o.o. Kula finances all the aforementioned tests and quality certificates from its own funds and thanks to its own team of engineers that are managing development programmes. In order to prove most of the parameters, our company had to develop its own quality control systems and establish four internal laboratories to ensure consistency and repeatability of quality in production.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
Your work and innovations have been given numerous awards, including the award at this year’s “European Night in Belgrade-The Best European” in the development programme category. How much does this award mean to you and what are your plans for the future?
— The European Night in Belgrade-The Best European Award in the development programme category gives us great motivation and impetus to achieve even bigger success next year and expand our market both in Serbia and the EU.