Water is was one of the five SusChem priority areas for innovation. The European Commission’s action plan for ‘Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ translates literally to the realm of the chemical industry and its customers. Development of technologies enabling closing of water loops are highlighted in the two SusChem inspired European PPPs - Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and energy Efficiency (SPIRE) and Bio-Based Industries (BBI) – and are working to enable industry to seize the opportunities offered by water innovation programmes.
In the spring of 2016 SusChem set up a working group of water experts from industry to identify and develop the SusChem ‘Water Innovation Agenda’ at a European level and to build the base for future funding calls, projects and collaborations.
Water and Sustainable Chemistry
Water is a scarce resource and a critical element for the development of our society and economy. The continuing increase in urbanisation and agricultural production combined with new demands from the development of biobased and eco-industries and the need to preserve biodiversity and the natural ecosystem put high demands on water management. The chemical industry is a user of water but it is also an important solution provider of innovative products, technologies and services which can enable more sustainable water management. On this front, SusChem and the chemical industry are very active in the European Innovation Partnership Water (Water EIP).
Water is used in the chemical industry for many purposes including processing, washing, diluting and heating, cooling, and transporting product. The chemical industry aims at near-zero discharge of water by using closed-loop systems. The control of impurities in closed water systems needs a combination of real time monitoring tools and sensors, highly selective separation processes and new water treatments to prevent fouling and corrosion.
Water efficiency measures are also aligned with targets to reduce energy consumption: energy consumption is a critical indicator when developing new technologies for water management and water treatment.
Water symbiosis and delivery of ‘fit-for-purpose’ water are considered as key elements to ensure and enable the optimal and integrated (re)use of water not only for the chemical industry but also in collaboration with other sectors including urban and agricultural use.
Focus on Water Innovation
The new SusChem working group is currently completing its efforts and formulating recommendations, but broad areas for water innovation programmes already identified include:
- Water sources & availability Sources of water which have not been widely used, are now increasingly considered as important sources including desalination, re-use of treated wastewater, rainwater harvesting and gas humidity condensation (such as cooling tower blowdown). Different technical options are in development to access these sources with their specific implementation strongly dependent on local conditions. Development of ‘tailor-made’ system solutions and scale up testing for robust industrial processes will be required.
- Water treatment, reuse & resource recovery, and cross industry symbioses. ‘Fit for Purpose’ will become the driving force in water treatment and management. Developments required for full scale implementation of this new paradigm include:
- Development of new chemical additives for water treatment to facilitate reuse.
- Economically effective solutions to remove and recover salts from industry water.
- Development of advanced membrane technologies to increase selectivity, reduce energy use and reduce maintenance operations (fouling resistance).
- Resource recovery (“circular economy”), development of novel highly selective and energy-efficient separation technologies to recover specific resources (e.g. phosphorous) from industry wastewater.
- Water analysis including online analysis & process development. Making the next steps forward in closing loops in industry water systems will require development of water monitoring systems and tools that are able to analyse water quality and quantity constantly. These analytical tools combined with process control will allow the closing of the water loops. Specific attention to the development of analytical instruments capable of determining the level of water disinfection required (e.g. to tackle legionella bacteria) will be required. Full understanding of the process in combination with advance process control will allow optimised dosing of treatment chemicals. Today these chemicals are added at high levels as a preventative measure. Better monitoring can ensure appropriate, lower dosing.
- Water distribution, in particular loss of water in distribution networks. Fresh water distribution systems can lose up to 20% of their water capacity due to leaks in their pipes and poor maintenance. Replacement of aging distribution infrastructure is expensive and/or impossible. The chemical industry has solutions that it would like to develop with partners along the value chain allowing retrofit leak repair of water distribution systems.
A recently completed SusChem inspired and EU funded project E4Water has shown what is possible in the chemical and related sectors in terms of water management. At the project’s final conference in April 2016, new integrated approaches for efficient and sustainable water management were presented. Each of the six industrial case studies that formed the core of the project illustrated the ability to de-couple the growing economic activity of the chemical industry from actual water use. By carefully selecting the right water treatment and management processes and systems the six examples were able to demonstrate on an industrial scale who the chemical sector can enable water to be reused several times – our goal of near zero discharge of water is getting within reach!
You can download the final results brochure from the E4Water project here.
Water innovation potential
The European industry, led by the chemical industry, clearly has the opportunity to develop knowledge and solutions to radically reduce consumption of water and, as a consequence, reduce energy consumption too.
By developing these sustainable solutions Europe is gaining competitive advantage that can create new high-skilled jobs, while reducing its consumption of resources and energy, increasing its production capacity and continuing to create the innovative products that a changing global society needs.an excellent Moreover it shows how
SusChem inspired initiatives such as SPIRE are helping to make sustainable water use in a wide cross-section of European industries a reality. Close cooperation and alignment in the definition phases of the funding calls available under Horizon 2020 across all PPPs and all levels of stakeholder involvement is necessary to ensure that all the needs of the process industries are fully considered.
A highly interactive debate is expected at the Stakeholder event on 16 June and your questions and expectations on the outcomes for the panel debates, in particular on water treatment, reuse and management, are welcome in advance.
Registration for the 2016 SusChem Stakeholder event is now open. This dedicated registration website includes links to discounted accommodation at the Hotel Bloom in Brussels - the venue for the event.
You are invited to submit your questions and comments and also your expectations for outcomes as part of the registration process. You can submit your questions and comments when you register and there will also be a link for question submission sent with the registration confirmation email.