Wastewater consists of effluents from industries, commercial and residential properties. It is 99% water and 1% impure substances added to it. To restore the quality of such water, chemical water treatment services are used.
A wide range of chemicals may be used to help in efficient conduct of desalination operations and water treatments to stop scaling and fouling. So, how big is the market for chemical treatment and what are the challenges faced by it? This can be examined in the following ways:
A huge variety of chemicals are used widely in the water treatment and desalination business. The substances which are used typically belong to two distinct groups.
The first group comprises of ‘online chemicals’ such as flocculants, coagulants, biocides, de-chlorination agents, and chlorination. The second group includes ‘offline chemicals’, which include a huge number of slightly stronger chemicals that can be used for many purposes like dissolving the fouling which attaches to filtration membranes during operation.
The total global consumption of chemicals for water treatment increased by 3.2% a year in the period 2010 to 2015, touching nearly $12.5 billion. Also, the market for chemical desalination treatment for cleaners, biocides, and scale inhibitors is around $600 million.
The process of desalination is divided into two main types: membrane and thermal applications by kinds of plants and is popular in Australia, Southeast Asia, South Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Nearly 70% of the thermal process is used for drinking water and 20% for industrial applications. This market is growing at a rate of 2.5% CAGR, and the Middle East accounts for 90% of it.
De-stressing of water
One of the main challenges facing the chemical water treatment industry is the change in sources of feedwater. This includes the fact that sources of water are subject to more pressure, and environmental legislation is pushing projects for saving and recovering a higher percentage of water. Therefore, operators are forced to run membrane systems through feed water of poor quality at higher rates of recovery.
Reuse of water is becoming more common. It involves the reuse of wastewater that is high in membrane foulants like biofilm potential, organics etc, and poses problems for the operator of membranes.
Stressed waters are found in remote areas with high metal content and high scaling. This is also for applications of water reuse where an understanding of feed water and operating features is vital. To face the challenge, R&D labs around the world are making efforts to study and identify solutions to issues faced by operators of membrane plants.
Water scarcity is a major challenge in this industry and indicates that customers are becoming more globalized and seeking solutions that can be deployed consistently globally.
Environmental regulations are becoming tighter, so companies are required to be ahead of the legislation. Companies are trying to overcome such challenges by investing in R&D to ensure that what they offer is compliant with ever-changing environmental regulations.
In case of membrane desalination, treating water with ‘less than desirable’ features poses a challenge to companies to offer the right microbial control, scale, and fouling. Currently, there is a drive to create environmentally friendly solutions.
There is a continual push to develop distillation plants of higher efficiency in the thermal desalination arena that puts much pressure on offering antiscalant chemistries to operate at higher temperatures. Therefore, one must understand the requirement to minimize chemical usage while maintaining asset integrity and process efficiency. A major challenge faced by the industry is to maintain the supply of water via minimal plant outages and the highest possible efficiencies for conversion.
Major developments in the chemical treatment plants will fall into the following 3 categories: providing solutions to reduce environmental footprints of the customer; enhancement of system control & monitoring and providing next-generation biocides and antiscalants which not only boost performance but also ensure safety.
In sum, though many people view chemicals as damaging to the environment, a good cleaning regime through the correct application of antiscalants can save a substantial quantum of energy and water. Hence, chemical water treatment services are the key to the future.