If your chemical manufacturing facility needs better water-saving solutions for its business, you might be wondering, What are the best ways manufacturing facilities in the chemical industry can reduce water usage?
Here, we’ll examine some of the methods you’ll need to consider as a water-tight industrial future ushers in stronger regulations and steeper water-usage fees, which can be challenging to water-intensive industries like chemical manufacturing. Learn more about what facilities like yours are doing so you can plan ways your own facility can adapt.
As you consider the information here, also keep in mind that because the chemical industry is so diverse and wide-ranging, you’ll want to explore these general solutions with a water-treatment expert that will help you determine the ideal solution for your business’s needs, specifically, which might require a custom set of technologies.
Analyze possible new water sources
As freshwater sources like rivers or lakes become increasingly stressed, much can be said for being more resourceful and thinking of sourcing your water differently or even in a hybrid-type way. For example, if your facility’s water-use model was traditionally to draw water in from a local freshwater source or municipality, perhaps you look into:
- recycling your wastewater;
- creating large-scale rainwater collections;
- tapping new groundwater sources;
- or even desalinating seawater.
With the right and most efficient water-treatment technologies, treating these different water sources to ensure they provide your facility with the appropriate water quality is essential to your process. For example, if your facility is drawing in water to use in its boiler, it needs to be extremely high-quality in order to prevent scaling and equipment damage.
The most important things your facility must understand when considering alternatives to your current water source are:
- how the water will be coming to you (what contaminants are present)
- and how pure the water needs to be for your process (will determine which technologies you’ll need in order to get there).
Also, check with local companies that might need to unload water back into the local waterways or municipality and are looking to save on discharge fees. You might be able to work out a sustainable relationship where they are able to provide you with water by having it processed and shipped to your location.
Modify water use in production
Once you’ve sourced water for your chemical manufacturing facility, chances are you’ll be treating that water in a variety of ways in order to use for the different steps of your process, such as heating and cooling, chemical reactions, rinsing, making solutions, and even drinking.
Many facilities in the chemical industry will opt to save water used in production by implementing a closed-loop process and optimizing water treatment technologies for treating the water more efficiently and recycling the water for reuse.
As mentioned in the introduction to this article, this can happen in a variety of ways, considering production processes vary so greatly from plant to plant. But, in general, most facilities will look to implementing one or more of the following technologies:
- membrane filtration; consisting of media and/or membrane filtration units, these technologies are used to remove particulate solids, which is particularly useful when high-quality water is needed
- biological treatment; comprises a variety of technologies used to break down and/or remove biodegradable solids efficiently, and with far lower water waste
- ion exchange; includes a variety of resin technologies used to selectively remove dissolved ionic contaminants
- distillation; a heat-driven separation process used to separate liquid components of a mixture, often deployed for recovery of industrial solvents
Another, often overlooked, way to lower your facility’s water usage is by diligently monitoring water usage and loss with automated technologies that will gather data you can use to make parts of your process more water-efficient. For example, an unexpected water loss in your production process might indicate a leak or problem with your facility’s equipment. By continually tracking your facility’s water use, you will be able to better set water-conservation goals and learn more quickly where those weak spots in your process can be tightened up.
Optimize water use in heating and cooling
In the chemical industry, much of the water used during production is done so during the cooling cycles. As chemical reactions take place during the production process, the cooling is often done to keep the heat from getting out of control.
To save water in this step, improve cooling tower efficiency, which can mean different things based on the type of cooling tower you have. For example, if you have a once-through cooling unit, it’s advisable to recycle the water being used, thereby reducing the need to keep drawing from your local water source. There are also options to convert your once-through cooling tower into a closed-circuit unit, which will diminish the need to add makeup water significantly.
It’s also important to understand your cooling tower system’s rate of water loss. Know if your system has any leaks and how much it loses in bleed-off and drift, which will determine the volume of water typically needed to make up for that loss. Once you get an idea of how much water the unit is losing and how, you can work to reduce the loss by fixing leaky connections and finding solutions to reduce bleed-off and drift.
In regard to heating processes, like making steam, water needs to be at its utmost purity, otherwise, you risk damaging equipment with fouling and scale. Make sure your boiler feedwater treatment system is working at its optimal capacity and using water efficiently, which is key in reducing water needed to replace any blowdown water.
Treating the feedwater to the cooling tower or boiler can increase the cycles of concentration, creating less blowdown and promoting better equipment performance. Sometimes the wastes can be recycled.
Treat wastewater more effectively
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the water-conservation effort at a chemical manufacturing facility, how the plant decides to treat its wastewater will go a long way in determining whether that facility is able to properly conserve water it might otherwise lose. Adding the fact that discharging your waste typically comes with a fee, it is becoming more and more in the best interest of the facility to recycle its water waste and reuse it for its process.
With an increasing push toward environmental protection, many industrial facilities and effluent regulators are strengthening strategies to reduce industrial process waste. Some are even going so far as to implement zero liquid discharge (also known as ZLD), a process that limits liquid waste at the end of your industrial process.
Your facility’s wastewater treatment needs, as always, will vary as widely as your process and what your facility manufactures. Wastewater treatment in general can be a highly customized solution that solves what your facility needs specifically, whether it’s treating your waste streams for reuse or discharge.
How SAMCO can help
SAMCO has over 40 years’ experience in the design and manufacture of custom water treatment systems for a range of industries and applications, so please feel free to reach out to us with your questions.
Get in touch with us here to set up a consultation with an engineer or request a quote. We can walk you through solutions that fit your water reduction and reuse needs and maximize your return on investment.
Head on over to our blog to learn more about available water treatment technologies to help reduce industrial water consumption. Some articles that might be of specific interest to you include:
- Why Your Industrial Facility Should Plan for Water Shortages Sooner Rather Than Later
- Industry and Water Shortages: Is Your Facility Ready?
- Five Ways Your Industrial Facility Can Conserve Water and Plan Ahead for Shortages
- How Can You Reduce Water Used in Electrical Generation?