Waterlust - search pure water

Waterlust - search for pure water

7:50 AM, 26th December 2017
Water treatment chemicals are primarily being used in power plants, oil & gas, refineries, mining and chemical processing industries. © Acroama
Water treatment chemicals are primarily being used in power plants, oil & gas, refineries, mining and chemical processing industries. © Acroama

The world will require over 40 percent more water by 2030. Are we ready for it?

By Debarati Das

Factually, the earth is made up of 70 percent water. But a miniscule portion of this reserve, about 1 percent is available in the form of fresh water which can be used by humans. However, while this portion of water is in no way increasing, the demand for water is not decreasing either amidst rising population, soaring industrial activities and mounting agricultural needs. Reports suggest that the world will require over 40% more water by 2030 to cope up with global population growth and rising energy demand.

The need of the hour is not just to judiciously use the available water, but also conserve it for future generations by returning it back to nature in its pristine condition. Water reuse is no longer a choice, it has become a necessity. And that’s why water treatment processes are becoming more and more important for the world today.

Today, various technologies and methods are being used to treat water. According to Market and Markets research, water treatment chemicals market is projected to grow from $42.23 billion in 2017 to $56.57 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 6 percent from 2017 to 2022.

While this need for water is ubiquitous across the globe, the growth, however, will be witnessed more in emerging markets of China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia due to exponential development in industrial and municipal water treatment networks.

Apart from rising population, the demand for water treatment chemicals is also growing due to the rise in stringent government rules and regulations on the quality of water being used for various purposes and the quality of water being disposed of. Water treatment chemicals are primarily being used in power plants, oil & gas, refineries, mining and chemical processing industries for the treatment of sewage, effluent wastewater and process water in the water-intensive industries.

Water treatment processes

The quality of water depends on various parameters like Total Dissolved Solids, hardness, pH, alkalinity, etc. Oil and grease is one of the most common pollutant in a wide range of chemical industries such as oil refineries, petrochemical plant, chemical plant, textile and food processing industries which report high levels of oil and grease in their effluents. The pollution of water resources due to disposal of heavy metals is also a major concern as metals can have toxic or harmful effects on many forms of life. Metals including chromium, copper, lead, mercury, manganese, cadmium, nickel, zinc and iron, etc are constantly being disposed in wastewater from many industries such as metallurgical, tannery, chemical manufacturing, mining, battery manufacturing industries. This has led to many harmful effects to humans, marine life, animals and environment in general.

Today, some of the major categories of water treatment chemicals being used are in the form of coagulants and flocculants, corrosion and scale inhibitors, biocides and disinfectants and pH adjusters and softeners. Here is a look at some of the water treatment chemicals and techniques being used currently:

Coagulants and flocculants: These processes hold the major portion of the market because of being low cost and effective. They are used in effluent water treatment processes for solids removal, water clarification, lime softening, sludge thickening, and solid dewatering.

Corrosion inhibitors: This is yet another vital category in the water treatment chemicals segment, which helps in decreasing the corrosion rates of an alloy or metal. These are mostly used in industrial applications such as oil and gas, pulp and paper, power generation, and metal and mining.

Scale inhibitor chemicals: When added to water, these chemicals reduce and prevent the formation of scales.

Biocides and disinfectants: These chemicals are expected to witness a huge growth. They are capable of destroying most of the exposed microorganisms present in water and are used in a wide range of domestic and industrial products and will witness growth in industrialization and wastewater treatment sectors.

Adsorption: Adsorption is a natural process by which molecules of a dissolved compound collect on and adhere to the surface of an adsorbent solid. Adsorption occurs when the attractive forces at the carbon surface overcome the attractive forces of the liquid. Granular activated carbon is a particularly good adsorbent medium.

Fixed biofilm reactor: This is a trickling filter that consists of a bed of highly permeable media on whose surface a mixed population of microorganisms is developed as a slime layer.

Electrosorption: This is a potential polarization induced adsorption on the surface of electrodes. After the polarization of the electrodes, the polar molecules or ions can be removed from the electrolyte solution by the imposed electric field and adsorbed onto the surface of the electrode. Because of its low energy consumption and environmentally friendly advantage, electrosorption has attracted a wide interest in treatment of wastewater.

Membrane technology: Membrane processes such as microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) are increasingly being applied for treating oily wastewater.

Technological advances

A day without water is unimaginable. The dearth of water is forcing the industry and municipalities to use seawater and inland water sources which contain high salt levels. Waste water in cities is piling up into a reservoir of crisis which will burst into a humongous environmental problem in the near future. The time to act is now. Various companies are working towards finding solutions to these issues before the catastrophe hits.

Here are some of the recent developments happening in the industry.

Turning salt water into drinking water: BASF scientists in Singapore are exploring ways to make desalination more efficient and environmentally friendly. Singapore aims to meet up to 30 percent of its future water needs by 2060 with desalination and it currently uses reverse osmosis for its desalination, which produces pure drinking water by pushing seawater through membranes to remove dissolved salts and minerals. However, fouling of the membrane cause expensive downtime or costly repairs for desalination plants.

BASF expanded its desalination laboratory in Tuas, Singapore, earlier this year, to co-develop solutions with desalination experts in the region. They recently developed Sokalan®RO 3500, which works on a variety of membranes and types of water. According to BASF, as compared to conventional antiscalants, this solution does not cause eutrophication and its resulting growth of algae.

Hydrophilic water filtration membranes: Arkema and Polymem jointly developed a new membrane technology, Neophil™ PVDF hollow fiber ultrafiltration membranes, earlier this year, for the production of drinking water. After several years of research, Arkema developed an Kynar fluorinated polymer grade which combines durable hydrophilic properties with the outstanding mechanical strength and chemical stability of PVDF.

According to Arkema, this durable hydrophilic technology has a much finer filtration (suspended solids, bacteria and viruses), higher (+ 20 percent) volume of water filtered for constant energy consumption, and extended lifetime of filtration systems from 5 to 10 years as compared to conventional systems. 

Ozone for water treatment: SUEZ launched new innovative technologies this year including ozonia® M, the next generation of ozone system for water treatment. The technology tailors the plasma (corona discharge) to optimize ozone generation and minimize non-productive energy. The economic impact makes ozone an effective solution to address the ever more demanding situation. SUEZ’s FiltraFast™ solution is a high-rate downflow gravity or pressure filter that uses a compressible media. The filter only uses hydraulic loading to create the required media porosity without any mechanical compressing devices. A proprietary backwash sequence enables maximum recovery, extends media life, and limits energy consumption. According to SEUZ, this process significantly reduces the footprint compared to sand filters, and reduces maintenance and replacement costs required by disc filters, and other compressible media filters.

Film forming amine technology to prevent corrosion: Kurita Water Industries Ltd launched Cetamine, a water treatment chemical for intermediate and high pressure boilers in the Japanese market earlier this year. Cetamine uses Film Forming Amine (FFA) to prevent the corrosion of pipes in power plant boilers. It not only extends the life of the piping and ensures safe and stable operation of units but also reduces energy costs and improves productivity.

The demand for clean water is constantly rising and hence, innovations for new water treatment solutions and chemicals will always keep the industry busy.

© Chemical Today Magazine

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