8 Ideas to Improve Profitability by Reducing Water Consumption

Water is used in nearly every industry in a wide range of applications, including:

  • Filter cake washing
  • Process dilution
  • Boiler feed (steam production)
  • Cooling
  • Dust control
  • Fire systems and safety showers
  • Housekeeping and cleaning
  • Hydroblasting
  • And unquantifiable other uses

 

 

Although it may not seem expensive, water can be very costly and the reduction in water consumption can represent significant savings for any processing plant.

 

  1. Sourcing - whether purchasing water from the government or constructing underground bores, actually obtaining water is the first cost
  2. Storage - surge capacity is handy, so the construction of tanks or storage dams is an additional expense, along with the operating and maintenance costs associated with the equipment
  3. Pumping - the transport the liquid is an additional price with pumps, pipes, electricity, and control systems
  4. Recovery - the construction and operation of sumps throughout the process area
  5. Removal - any excess water has to be dealt with, whether this is rainfall or process water, extra dams need to be developed
  6. Unwanted process dilution - any water that enters the process dilutes out the concentration of the mother liquor and can reduce the reaction kinetics
  7. Unwanted process cooling - when cold water enters the process it can reduce the overall temperature, requiring additional heating capacity to hit set points

 

One interesting exercise is to calculate the cost of water consumption. This is often a significant amount more than you would expect, but it can be used in multiple purposes, such as justifying capital work and equipment modifications, as well as used to educate operations regarding the impact of excess water.

 

“What gets measured gets managed”

Peter Drucker

 

For many plants the amount of water ingress into the process is often not measured, managed or even thought about regularly. This is particularly true of large plant with large footprints where rainwater is recycled back into the system. The first step is to measure the total amount of water being consumed and the areas it is coming from.

 

Cooling towers are a good example of a recycle...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

There are literally as many water saving initiatives as there are water uses. Here are some proposals to consider:

 

  1. Reduce cooling tower water make-up requirements
  2. Maximize condensate returning to the boilers
  3. Optimize wash water consumption
  4. Change wash nozzles with lower flow nozzles
  5. Convert wet cleaning to dry cleaning
  6. Optimize steam usage and heat exchange
  7. Reduce steam trap losses
  8. Install automatic timed sprays to prevent the need for continuous hosing

 

The ability to optimize total water consumption is an easy cost reduction and efficiency improving project. For many processing plants this can have the potential for many millions of dollars and should be considered in any optimization exercises.

 

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