‘Smoke’ from factory chimneys proves to be valuable water source

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Membrane technology to convert water vapor into industrial and drinking water now tested on large scale; ten years’ preliminary research gains follow-up.

Arnhem, The Netherlands, [WorldofRenewables.com]

It appears that so much high-grade water can be recovered from flue gases of certain factory chimneys, as a result of strongly improved membrane technology, that industrial plants in arid areas can make a valuable contribution to the worlds water shortage. Field tests and ten years of preliminary research have shown that these plants can change from water consumers to water producers. The captured water can be used for both industrial and consumptive use. Besides this, with these results, these plants can save a lot of energy – and thus costs – in several industrial processes. These possibilities present themselves in industries that require much water e.g. for cooling applications, generating steam or for drying processes, as in the food, paper, cement, energy and petrochemical sectors. Commissioned by the European Union and led by energy services firm KEMA, thirteen partners from Europe, the Middle East and Africa are working together on a follow-up to this research.

From ten years preliminary research to large-scale tests

Ten years’ research and testing under the leadership of the energy services firm KEMA, in collaboration with the European Membrane Institute at the University of Twente and a number of Dutch utilities, have resulted in significantly improved gas separation membranes with which water vapor should be captured on a large scale. As a follow-up, KEMA, under contract to the European Union, together with thirteen partners from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has started with the development of a number of large-scale tests at power stations in Spain and Israel, a geo-thermal well in Tunisia and paper factories in the Netherlands and South Africa. These tests ought to clear the way for industrial production and large-scale implementation of this new technology.

From water consumer to water producer

Tests in industrial plants in the Netherlands and Germany have demonstrated that at least 40% of the water in the flue gases can be recovered with the new membrane technology. Beforehand, researchers counted on a recovery of 20%. This means that an average power plant of 400 megawatts can supply twice as much water as it needs for steam generation. The power plant thus changes from water consumer to water producer. The amount of water saved, corresponds to the yearly consumption of about 3,500 Western households or about 9,500 African households The quality of the recovered water is so high that it can be employed not only for deminarilized water use for industry but also for consumption purposes. For this reason there are three African partners in the consortium and two from the Middle East. Initial calculations moreover show that hundreds of millions of euros can be saved annually with this new technology. The new project bears the name CapWa, ‘Capture of evaporated Water with novel membranes’.

Broad consortium

Participants in the project (in alphabetical order) are: Brabant Water (the Netherlands), Gas Natural Fenosa (Spain), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Institute for Membrane Technology, Italy), Cut GmbH & Co. KG (Germany), École Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Tunis (Tunisia), Israel Electric Corporation Ltd. (Israel), KEMA (the Netherlands), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Kumasi (Ghana), Membrana GmbH (Germany), Papiertechnische Stiftung (Germany), Sappi Ltd. (South Africa & the Netherlands), Stichting Kenniscentrum Papier en Karton (the Netherlands), University of Twente – European Membrane Institute (the Netherlands), Yodfat Engineers Ltd. (Israel).

Pier Nabuurs, chairman of KEMA Board of Directors:

“We are delighted that these fourteen partners are able to expand on the work done during the last ten years. The consequences of this new technology are far-reaching. Not only in the field of the environment and cost savings, but certainly also in the field of the drinking water issue in arid areas, as in some African countries.”

About KEMA

KEMA, set up in 1927, is an independent knowledge provider that is active around the world in the energy value chain. It specializes in high-value services in the area of business & technical consultancy, operational support, measurements & inspections, and testing & certification. As an independent company, KEMA advises and supports government organizations as well as producers, suppliers and end users of energy. In addition, the company is testing and certifying electricity transmission and distribution equipment, and other energy related equipment. More than 1,700 professionals work at KEMA, which has offices and representations in more than 20 countries around the world.

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