Global Processing

The globalization of water

March 15, 2013

Are water markets around the world getting serious about conservation and reuse?

 “It depends where on earth you are,” Snehal Desai, global business director, Dow Water and Process Solutions, says. “Outside the developed world you don’t necessarily have a ‘municipal feed.’ Having a secure water supply may therefore be a real issue for companies involved in process production. Plus, in building new infrastructure you have opportunities to apply the latest technologies.”

Dow Water and Process Solutions is a unit of Dow Chemical, headquartered in Midland, Mich., and is said to enjoy annual revenues of more than $1 billion.

“In the developed world too,” Desai adds, “in Europe, it’s no longer just demonstration projects. Companies are moving toward ‘zero discharge.’”

They do so, Desai says, because processors must constantly readjust the three key parameters of product quality, chemical use and energy management, given rapidly unfolding globalization and critical issues related to energy costs, water availability and environmental concerns. In this unique, 21st century environment, for both private and public water infrastructure, Dow is committed to applying its expertise in reverse osmosis, nanofiltration and ultrafiltration.

In themselves, these filtration technologies are not new, with some of them having been around for more than half a century. Instead, innovation comes, says Desai, from an understanding of regulatory concerns and market demand, with technology application tuned to unique industry environments.

Each process industry has its own set of priorities, Desai notes. For example, given the rapid development of U.S.-based shale gas resources there’s healthy demand for treatment of water used in hydraulic fracturing and for the “produced water” that comes out of the well mixed with oil and gas. And unlike a food or even chemical processing plant, upstream oil and gas production sites may be in some of the most remote corners of the world.

“What’s important here,” says Desai, “are mobile units that can be left to run without operators and maintenance free for a period of time. That water can now be reused or at least cleaned before disposal.”

For centuries, water treatment has primarily depended on gravity, or separation by weight. It’s well known there are quicker, more thorough ways, using advanced filtration, to reduce suspended or dissolved particles. That’s where technology’s role starts in the 21st century, as water becomes a constrained resource on a global scale. But it’s just the start. To learn more, see the April issue of Water/Waste Processing.