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ACHEMA 2015 - Trend Report: Water Management The Industry Reduces its Thirst for Water

| Author / Editor: DECHEMA / Dr. Jörg Kempf

How well does industry manage water resources? The general tendency today is to take a holistic systems approach. More process water is being recirculated and industrial producers are recovering reusable substances and water treatment chemicals. Companies are also taking a new approach to effluent management. Partial flows are being diverted at an early stage, making treatment easier and less expensive. Technology is even available which can virtually eliminate effluent. Industrial water management will be one of three focal topics at ACHEMA 2015, the world's leading fair and exhibition for chemical and process industries.

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(Picture: koya979 - Fotolia, [M]-Sahlmüller)

Plants, animals and humans depend on water for survival, but water is also an essential technical resource for industry – whether as cooling agent, transport medium, solvent or process water in a range of qualities from industrial water to softened or demineralized water to highly purified water for the pharmaceutical industry.

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Industrial water consumption is not free. Inlet water normally needs to be conditioned, and treatment costs money. Circulation pumps consume energy. Post-treatment is also normally required so that the water can be re-circulated or discharged into receiving watercourses.

Industrial Water Management in Focus

For cost and environmental reasons, it is advantageous to reduce water movement, water heating and water contamination, and this is where industrial water management has a role to play. The goal is to supply water at a defined quality level while keeping the costs (including disposal) under control.

Technological complexity is lower in regions where there is an abundance of water compared to parts of the world where water is scarce making every drop that enters the process a precious commodity. The costs of closed-loop recirculation or even water-free production are more acceptable there than in countries like Germany. Whatever the water supply situation, production and water technology are always closely interrelated, creating the need for integrative technologies and water management systems.

Water Recycling and Elimination of Production Effluent

"Off-the-shelf" industrial water management does not exist. That is the conclusion reached in a ProcessNet position paper on the trends and outlook in industrial water technology, which was published in March 2014 (available at processnet.org). Tailored strategies are needed for the specific industry, application and site. Water recycling based on recirculation of process water is normally only a viable option if contamination levels are low and water treatment is relatively inexpensive. The experts say that water recycling is less efficient for waste streams that are highly contaminated and/or contain substances that have a very diverse range of chemical and physical properties.

The basic prerequisite for water recycling is the establishment of an efficient water management system to separate water that readily lends itself to recycling from water that is less suitable. Most of these internal recycling processes are located at or near the source where the complexity of the constituents is limited and additive techniques can be deployed with minimum effort and expense.

For further ACHEMA trend reports see our ACHEMA-Special

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