“We have to choose the ‘right’ water quality for every application”

Paul Ockier, General Manager, Flanders Water Technology Network
Manufacturing & Process
22 January 2018

As the name suggests, the Flemish Water Technology Network is a knowledge centre for water technology. Of course, waste water treatment is an important aspect of this, but the organisation also maps out sustainable solutions for recovering energy and raw materials from water.

The Flemish Water Technology Network is a non-profit organisation that uses innovation to strengthen the competitiveness of its members, which include research facilities and companies that are directly or indirectly involved with water technology. “Our link with the research centres is very important for us, because this enables us to gain new and valuable knowledge of what’s happening technically,” explains Paul Ockier, General Manager of the Flemish Water Technology Network.

The Blue Circle

“We have already set up several projects in collaboration with these centres, including ‘The Blue Circle’ and ‘IntelSens’. ‘The Blue Circle’ focuses on technologies for the industrial water cycle, with an emphasis on the sustainable reuse of water and the extraction of energy and raw materials, such as salts. The ultimate goal is to close the water circle.”

Optimising waste water treatment with intelligent sensors

The ‘IntelSens’ project revolves around the use of intelligent sensors in water management. Such sensors may prove very useful in waste water treatment plants. There they can help optimise the processes by which oxygen is added to the waste water. “These processes are particularly energy-intensive, and appropriate sensors can lead to significant cost savings. In addition, sensor data can be integrated into a smart data system, enabling us to analyse and optimise activities and track historical data.”

Choosing the ‘right’ water quality

It is becoming increasingly clear that we do not have unlimited access to clean drinking water. For example, in West Flanders, Belgium, the groundwater level has dropped by 100 metres in the past 100 years. That is why we need to look for other sources of water. Recycling waste water can be an important alternative for certain applications.

Not all the water we use needs to be of the highest quality. “We’re still inclined to reach immediately for the best possible water quality for any application. In some cases, drinking water quality is used to cool industrial installations which could be done with less pure water. To put it another way: we have to learn to choose the ‘right’ water quality for every specific application.”

Water = Energy

The Flemish Water Technology Network is also looking into extracting more value from water, including the retrieval of energy and raw materials such as salt and metals.

“We believe it is essential to further develop the link between water and energy in the future. For example, energy can be generated by bringing salt water into contact with fresh water. Or we can recover energy from hot or even tepid water in waste pipes. This would enable companies to recover heat from their process or cooling water. In Antwerp (Belgium), the Oosterweel project is used as an occasion to construct a large water drainage system that will be linked to a heating network.”

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