Act before there’s not a drop to drink
Dow’s integrated production site at Terneuzen, the Netherlands, underscores how plants may rethink their water use. The facility is the current holder of the European Responsible Care Award from the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), Brussels, Belgium, for its innovative re-use of municipal wastewater. The local water company, Evides, uses water that is purified in a nearby biological wastewater treatment plant to produce demineralized water that’s then delivered to Dow Benelux for steam generation. Dow uses 60,000 m3 of water per day at Terneuzen, half of which comes from recycled process water and rain water — now around 7,500 m3 comes from the nearby community.
“Primarily we are looking at the water envelope and asking where we have the opportunity to minimize water consumption at all our sites while maximizing its recycle and reuse,” notes Gená Leathers, global technology leader — water, wastewater, landfill, at Dow’s Environmental Technology Center in Edina, Minn. “This project is an excellent example of us partnering with the local community to overcome the diminishing availability of water. We are currently working on a similar project with the community and other local industries near a site in Canada,” she adds.
The point here is that Dow now is considering water use right at the start of the design phase for projects for both grassroots and existing sites, so it can engineer in the most appropriate treatment strategies right from the outset.
Twenty years ago such a strategy would have been unheard of, but Leathers is confident about the way ahead. “There’s no doubt that this requires a mind shift, a cultural change. And we are learning all the time. Also, we are finding that the folks in engineering and design are very receptive to these ideas and keep them very much in mind while doing the evaluations,” she concludes.
This move ties in with a broader commitment the company has made to set the standard for sustainable water use and management through the application of innovative chemistry, technologies and business models.Worth its salt
One abundant but underutilized source of water is the sea. So, it’s little wonder that interest in desalination plants and technologies is strong.
As sources of high quality water for chemical processing become increasingly scarce, Dow, for one, is targeting desalination, both of seawater and brackish water (as well as water reuse applications and small, distributed systems for local use).
“In general, the cost of desalinated water has fallen dramatically — by more than half — in the last 15 years,” says Chuck Martz, global marketing director for Dow Water Solutions in Edina. “So demand for the reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) membranes we manufacture for use in desalination is growing rapidly on a global basis. Desalination will have double-digit growth for the foreseeable future,” he adds.
Reflecting this heady prospect, in mid-June Dow announced an $88-million expansion at the Edina facility — the third investment there in eight years. Part will go for an expanded manufacturing area to boost output of advanced technologies such as RO and NF membranes and for automated production of 16-in.-diameter elements.