Friday, 10 December 2021

Aquafin signs MoU with Dockwater to use wastewater in desalination plant

Aquafin has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Dockwater to investigate the use of treated wastewater at Dockwater's desalination plant to reduce the dependence on freshwater.

Reducing freshwater dependence

Belgium water utility Aquafin has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Dockwater desalination plant to investigate the use of treated wastewater to reduce dependence on freshwater.

The MoU aims to use the Dockwater desalination plant, currently under construction in the Port of Antwerp in Belgium, to explore the possibilities of using treated wastewater for industrial purposes.

Currently, industrial facilities at the Port of Antwerp use fresh drinking water for all their industrial water operations as it is the only viable source available to them.

What has made this partnership stand out is its focus on the shift away from using freshwater to using treated wastewater and saltwater.

"Treated wastewater is a valuable resource which is otherwise released into local waterways and eventually mixed with seawater."

Together, Aquafin and Dockwater are aiming to reduce the consumption of industrial freshwater by 98 per cent to ease the pressure on fresh drinking water supplies in Antwerp.

Jan Goossens, CEO of Aquafin said: "Our MoU with Dockwater demonstrates our commitment to advance the Blue Deal agenda and circular economy initiatives in Flanders.

"Treated wastewater is a valuable resource which is otherwise released into local waterways and eventually mixed with seawater."

The Blue Deal calls for increasing the security of the water supply through off-grid solutions and creating an innovative, circular water economy that reduces aggregate consumption.

It comes as three major European water utilities from the Netherlands, Germany and France signed a five-year MoU to accelerate cooperation on research, development and innovation in the urban water cycle.

The construction of the plant was announced last year with operations aiming to begin in 2024.

Achieving full circularity

The connection between Aquafin and Dockwater would be a proposed fully circular eco-system, as Aquafin has its Noor Wastewater Treatment Plant located close to DockWater's in construction plant at the Port of Antwerp.

This would provide the Dockwater treatment plant with a consistent source of wastewater that it could treat and then provide for the surrounding customers. It would also give Dockwater a second, excess source of water supply.

This all ties into Dockwater's three main aims:

  1. Decreases industrial customers drinking water consumption by 98 per cent
  2. Decreases aggregate water consumption by 14 per cent
  3. Decreases water treatment chemicals by 70 per cent.

This conversion of dock water to process water aims to not only reduce the pressure on the drinking water supply but also offer quality and environmental benefits.

Take, for example, the salt load and concentration of minerals. In process water, this is five times lower than that of drinking water.

Because the water contains less salt and minerals, it is better suited for chemical installations, meaning less water use and less wastewater, and the use of fewer chemicals for water treatment.

Closing the loop

Another ambition of the MoU between Aquafin and Dockwater is a phrase we are seeing more and more of in the water sector: closing the loop.

The idea of a circular system that does not produce any waste and instead makes use of its waste in other systems is a process a lot of partnerships are trying to adopt.

On top of Dockwater's targets, the new plant will run on 100 per cent renewable energy.

"While the plant will initially use salty water from the docks, our vision is to achieve full circularity and source all of our water from wastewater."

According to Dockwater, the proposed plant will reduce the environmental impact of the surrounding industrial area. This will be through a combination of improving process water, as decreasing total water consumption in the port – the equivalent to the consumption of 80,000 residents.

Mark McComiskey, a representative of Dockwater, said: "The Dockwater project has been conceived as a fully sustainable, green new source of water for the Flemish region, one that will help reduce industrial consumption of limited freshwater resources.

"While the plant will initially use salty water from the docks, our vision is to achieve full circularity and source all of our water from wastewater."

While the MoU with Aquafin will provide Dockwater with a good supply of wastewater, Dockwater says it is looking at its surrounding industrial companies to source even more wastewater.


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