According to the UN theme for 2015, 'Water and sustainable development', how does Dow Water & Process Solutions demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and responsible use of water?
Water sustainability is set to be one of the world’s greatest future challenges. One of the key issues in water production its symbiotic relationship with energy, in what is known as the water-energy nexus, meaning that sustainable water production is highly dependent on energy availability and cost. Dow Water & Process Solutions is dedicated to finding solutions to ensure more sustainable, low energy production of clean water, and is committed to continuous research and development into water treatment innovations.
Key to the success of Dow Water & Process Solutions product development both in Spain and at a global level is the Global Water Technology Center in Tarragona, which opened in 2011 following a $15 million (approximately €11 million) investment. The center’s unique location is critical to develop products and processes across the major sectors of purification, desalinization and potabilization.
For example, DOW FILMTEC ECO ultrafiltration elements have been designed to offer unparalleled rejection and flow performance for industrial water treatment, while also enabling lower energy usage and reduced regeneration costs in downstream polishing units. When developing the DOW ECO elements, Dow scientists focused their research on energy efficiency in current reverse osmosis membranes and found that further energy savings could be realized through configurationally energy and element design. At highest quality, the elements deliver 40% lower salt passage at 30% less energy, a significant difference when compared with standard RO elements.
Global insights on water, energy and food consumption certainly seem worrying. What solutions does the chemical sector and, in particular, DW&PS provide to address this situation?
By 2030 it’s expected that the world will require 30% more water, 40% more energy and 50% more food, forecasts that don’t even fully consider the fact that by 2045 the planet’s population is expected to reach 9 billion. These dizzying numbers make it abundantly apparent that over time there will be a sharply increased demand for all three elements. With this in mind, Dow Water & Process Solutions offers advanced solutions to help improve production processes as well as lower costs to ensure continued supply of all three for future generations.
“Water sustainability is set to be one of the world’s greatest future challenges”
One of the most important elements to address these issues to come out of the chemical sector is the use of ion exchange resins. As an example, in energy-intensive industrial processes, Dow Water & Process Solutions’ ion exchange resins have been designed to improve water processing by increasing energy efficiency and enhancing the performance of other water treatment systems, such as reverse osmosis or ultrafiltration membranes. Regarding the food sector, Dow Water & Process Solutions offer a wide variety of resins solutions to help produce better quality and higher quantities of products, while ensuring the most efficient production processes. For example, ion exchange resins are used to treat water and other liquids for consumer consumption, from refining high-fructose corn syrup and debittering juice to chromatographically separating sugars and concentrating maple sap. Each different process requires a different type of resin to work most efficiently and ensure stable production today and in the future.
Companies by themselves are not going to change those patterns of consumption, without government support. What would Dow Water & Process Solutions request from politicians to walk together in the same direction?
Dow Water & Process Solutions recognizes the importance of regulation and legislation in shaping the future of water use on a larger scale. One of the most important ways this can be done is by raising awareness, both among consumers and business, of the importance of using water responsibly and how this can impact our own lives. It is also important for water to be considered among governments’ environment and sustainable objectives, which we are beginning to see more often as understanding of water related issues become more widespread.
Will our future be based on sea water desalination and ensure clean drinking water to most of the world's population? How can you achieve these goals?
Desalination is vital to human progress because, while 75% of the earth is covered with water, only 2.5% of it is freshwater. Therefore, the other 97.5% needs to be desalinated before it can be consumed. However, The Pacific Institute estimates that seawater desalinization averages about 15,000 kilowatts per hour per million gallons (3.96 kWh/m3) of water produced, making it one of the most energy-intensive, and therefore one of the most cost-intensive, water treatment processes available.
Dow Water & Process Solutions is dedicated to the research and development of low energy seawater reverse osmosis membranes to secure the future of water desalination in the face of rising costs. Consider, for example, DOW SEAMAXXTM Seawater Reverse Osmosis Elements, which can help reduce the high amount of energy typically needed to create freshwater from saltwater by up to 10% and thus significantly reduce costs. The enhanced membrane chemistry of SEAMAXX helps minimize pressure and energy consumption below any other existing seawater reverse osmosis product, and provides reliable, long-term permeate quality for single, double pass and inter-staged desalinization systems.
Nevertheless, being one of the most costly water purification treatments, alternative processes to seawater desalination, such as wastewater reuse using ultra or nanofiltration membranes or a combination or filtration and reverse osmosis, are continuously being explored, and will have an increasingly important role to play in the future.
By Ana Crespo