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intelligent Water Treatment Technologies for water preservation combined with simultaneous energy production and material recovery in energy intensive industries

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - intelWATT (intelligent Water Treatment Technologies for water preservation combined with simultaneous energy production and material recovery in energy intensive industries)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-03-31

Water is an essential natural resource that impacts all aspects of life. However, unsustainable uses of water resources, population dynamics, along with climate change lead this critical resource to become scarce – a trend which is expected to continue. Water use has been increasing worldwide by about 1% per year since the 1980s, a trend that is expected to continue at a similar rate until 2050 due to rising needs of the industrial and domestic sectors. The problem of water scarcity is very important for the society since clean and abundant supply of water is vital for supporting activities like food production, public health, industrial and energy conversion. More specific, industry is one of the main water users in Europe, accounting for about 30-40 % of total water abstractions. To mitigate these issues, sustainable water management approaches are needed. In that content, the general concept of intelWATT project is to introduce new innovative technological solutions towards the increase of water preservation and reuse in industrial environment. This will be achieved through the effectively integration of novel wastewater treatment processes with intelligent and decision making mechanisms. The proposed processes will be able to adapt and adjust the treatment conditions in real time according to wastewater inlet composition and the desired water product requirements.
The main objective of the intelWATT proposal is to validate, at TRL7-8, innovative & intelligent water treatment technologies combining fresh water preservation with resources recovery and energy conversion based on the circular economy concept. This will be demonstrated through three different case studies in representative energy intensive industrial activities (power generation, mining, manufacturing-electroplating): a) fresh water preservation through a >99% reduction of cooling tower blow down (CTBD) in a combined cycle natural gas power plant, b) energy conversion and water recovery from a symbiotic scheme exploiting mining and wastewater effluents and c) a closed loop for the simultaneous recovery of valuable metals and wastewater treatment to significantly reduce heavy loaded wastewater effluents & process costs in a plastic electroplating facility.
The targets and objectives of the project are implemented through ten Work Packages (WP). The work performed during the first 18th months reporting period include in brief the following activities:
1) In WP2: a) the identification of the basic water streams for each case study (CTBD for CS1, Brine from potash mines and brackish water from a well for CS2 and effluents from the rinsing baths for CS3) was performed, b) the potentials for water preservation for each CS were explored, c) an in-depth physicochemical characterization of the process streams for the proposed industrial applications was conducted, d) the key quality parameters, prototype units’ performance indexes and sensors’ requirements were specified and finally e) the inputs -outputs parameters / values of the Machine Learning system were defined.
2) In WP3: a) lab scale units were constructed for all intelWATT’s processes (UltraFiltration, NanoFiltration, Reverse Osmosis, Reverse ElectroDialysis and Membrane Distillation), b) several configurations, membrane types, modules and operational schemes were tested, c) the fouling mechanisms were investigated and d) the design of the dashboards, sensors’ testing platform and simulators were developed.
3) In WP4: a) Graphene based ion exchange membranes, Artificial Water Channels NF and RO membranes, Hollow Fibers NF membranes, PVDF based MD membranes and UF-Membranes for pre-treatment were developed, upscaled and characterized and b) new hollow fibers MD and UF modules were designed and constructed.
4) In WPs 5,6 and 7: a) preliminary detailed P&ID for the pilot units were prepared, b) Demosite preparative works were implemented and c) simulations runs were performed in order to support the prototypes; design.
5) In WP8: the basic components of the Artificial Intelligence system like the dashboard, the data lake, the AI algorithms, the sensors ingestion mechanism and the communication protocols were developed for the interconnectivity, smart monitoring and optimization of energy consumption and water production of the demo units.
6) In WP9: a) the Life Cycle Assessment Analysis (LCSA) methodology was defined, b) questionnaires are prepared and delivered to WP5, 6 and 7 leaders regarding the adaptation of the LCSA methodology to each CS.
9) the main dissemination activities of WP10 included: a) the set-up of project’s website, the preparation of the exploitation and dissemination registries, c) the preparation of the Plan for the Exploitation and Dissemination of the project’s results (PEDR) and d) networking and clustering actions with relevant industrial water related actions
10) The development of a Quality assurance plan for the management and control of projects’ administrative and financial aspects.
During the course of the first 18th months considerable progress was achieved in a wide spectrum of areas which will be continually improved and optimized to meet the objectives and ambition of this interdisciplinary project.
In brief, achievements that have been reached to this stage include
a)The implementation of smart monitoring design to all the processes aiming at a 30% reduction in energy demands.
b)Next generation of separation elements including Graphene based membranes for reverse electrodialysis, artificial water channel reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes, wetting resistant PVDF based membranes for membrane distillation and finally high durability micro/ultrafiltration membranes for high solid content filtration.
c) Novel approaches for the design of modules for membrane distillation aiming at improved energy efficiency.
d)Development of smart sensors capable of detecting elements of interest
The problem of water and critical raw materials scarcity is anticipated to be intensified in the next years due to climate change and recent geopolitical developments. The adoption of intelWATT’s solutions is expected to tackle these problems having obvious technological, social and environmental impacts. The increase of water reuse, the recovery of materials and the energy generation will have also a positive effect to the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions. Finally, the cutting edge breakthroughs introduced by the project regarding the water treatment processes, membrane preparation and the development of new sensors and AI smart monitoring systems will improve the competitive of the relevant European industrial sectors.
Electroplating Process
Electric Plant Cooling Tower
Case study concept scheme