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Materials, Process & technology challenges for the vision 2050

              Author : Nienke Koeman-Stein (TNO, The Netherlands)




1. Introduction

2. Challenges

2.1. Overview 

2.2. Technical directions for Water Quantity

2.3. Technical directions for Water Quality

2.4. Energy and resources

2.5. Non-technical challenges

3. Direction for solutions

3.1. Membranes

3.2. Nanomaterials

3.3. Catalysis

4. Allocation of skills, competencies and funding

4.1. Technical challenges

4.2. Non-technological challenges

5. Recommendations

6. References






In 2012 a set of workshops was organized in the framework of the EU project ChemWater. As the chemical industry is a major water sources, and water is becoming more scarce, there is a need for a more water sustainable chemical industry. The chemical industry can implement solution but can also act as a solution provider by developing materials and processes for better water treatment. This deliverable describes the directions for solutions regarding the challenges identified and discussed during the workshops, to reach a more water sustainable chemical industry. Directions for solutions are given regarding water quantity, water quality, energy and resources and non-technological challenges.

Solutions regarding water quantity lie in reduce, reuse and recycle of water. A shift to (biotechnological) processes, using milder conditions with higher reaction rates is needed. The use of alternative water sources such as (treated, domestic of industrial) wastewater, rainwater or salt water is needed. This will require adaptation of current processes or equipment, being able to deal with the constituents in these waters. Also alternative cooling methods will have to be developed that use less water, such as dry cooling techniques. Reuse of water can also be reached by closer cooperation between the industrial sector and the urban and agricultural sector. The development of closed loop recycle and reuse processes and changes in processes and products will lead to reduction of water use. Gaining better insight in the processes at an industrial site will lead to a reduction in wastages and leakages of water.

Solutions regarding water quality deal with the prevention of pollution of water and the treatment of polluted water with new, or more intensified processes. This will result in the safe reuse of wastewater. Many technologies dealing with specific water quality problems have to be developed.

There is a need for processes that use less energy and resources and that can use sources that are less stressful on the environment. Wastewater treatment processes have to be implemented that use less energy, or can even recover the energy that is in the wastewater. This can be both in the form of energy carriers such as methane, as well as reusing waste-heat. Wastewater treatment should also focus on the recovery of valuable resources, both organic and inorganic. Energy production is currently also a major water consuming industry, both for cooling and for the recovery of shale gas. The chemical industry can develop green chemicals in order make the use of water more sustainable, and should develop methods to treat wastewater that is released in the production of shale gas.

To drive changes further and faster, also many non-technological challenges were identified. These involve political, legal and environmental drivers as well as drivers concerning education and public awareness. Industry can take the lead in raising public awareness about what it does to enable sustainable water use and about reuse of alternative water use. It can also take the lead in the cooperation with other sectors to implement reuse of water between sectors. There are already many regulations in Europe that focus on sustainable water use. Education is key in training qualified people in the chemical and water sector as well as in teaching the public about the way the chemical industry works.

Technologies that have to be developed can be in the field of membranes, nanomaterials and catalysis.

Many initiatives are ongoing to reach a more water sustainable chemical industry. These initiatives are driven by several actors: the chemical industry, the water industry, the European Union, national, regional and local governments and by research institutes and universities. These initiatives are in the form of technology platforms, networks of excellence, European programs, and local, regional and national programs to fund research, development, implementation of new technologies and innovative strategies.

Both technological and non-technological challenges have to be solved to reach a more water sustainable chemical industry. Cooperation between stakeholders on a technological level as well as addressing public awareness will be key. EU programs can help to facilitate this cooperation as well as many initiatives such as ETPs and NoEs.  


1. Introduction  

Water is used by everybody and is a crucial element in life. It is also crucial for the production of most things we use in life. As water is used in many aspects of life, such as drinking water, agriculture and industry, a good supply and a good quality is very important. As more and more water is being used by a growing population that demands more water for example for agriculture but also for industrial processes, stress on water sources increases. By reducing water use, use of more advanced technologies for water treatment and cooperation between different sectors and water users, this stress can be relieved.

The chemical industry is one of the biggest water-consuming industries. Water is used as a utility in non-strategic processes such as cooling, steam generation, sanitation and fire-water networks. It is essential upstream of manufacturing/ extraction processes, for material transport and for washing. Water has many uses in the manufacturing and extraction processes itself, mainly as solvent. It functions as a solvent, as raw material, for equipment cleaning etc. The criteria for water quality in manufacturing and extraction depend directly on the industrial process and are production-specific. There is a lot of potential for reducing the chemical industries water footprint. It is estimated that a reduction of more than 50% water in the chemical industry can be reached.


Figure 1:

Water saving potential in industry

(ICAEN 1999)  


The water saving potential in the chemical industry in Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden is around 2500 Mm3 (Dworak T. 2007). Steps to improve water quality have already led to a reduction in chemical oxygen demand (COD) emissions. Analysis shows organics in waste water generated by the EU chemicals industry fell by 46% from 2004 to 2009 (Cefic 2012a). The abstraction of water for industrial use has decreased over the past 20 years, 10% reduction in western (central & northern) countries, 40% reduction in southern countries and up to 82% reduction in eastern countries. In Turkey the reduction reaches 30%. The decrease is partly because of the general decline in water-intensive heavy industry but also because of increases in the efficiency of water use (EAA 2009). A major reduction in water use will also lead to a reduction in energy use.

Furthermore, the chemical industry can come up with new advanced materials and chemicals for water treatment that can be used in the water industry as it is one of the biggest providers of water treatment materials and technologies.

The chemical industry in Europe is a large industry with sales in 2011 of 539 billion Euro with its largest share in the petrochemical industry. Figure 2 and Figure 3 show the percentages in sales per country and subsector in the European chemical industry.


Figure 2:

Percentage share in sales per country in the EU. Total sales in 2011: €539 billion (Cefic 2012b)




Figure 3:

Percentage sales by subsector of the European chemical industry (Cefic 2012b)


The countries with its major share are Germany (DE), France (FR), the Netherlands (NL) and Italy (IT). Germany, The Netherlands and Italy, however, suffer from medium to severe water stress in river basins (see Figure 4). A baseline scenario reflecting a continuation of current trends (Long Range Energy Modeling scenario, LREM-E) in 2030 is also given and shows a continuation of this water stress in The Netherlands and Germany. Other major water using counties are Belgium and Spain. They suffer from severe water stress and this will also continue in 2030.



Figure 4: Water stress in river basins in the EU in 2000 and according to a baseline scenario reflecting a continuation of current trends (Long Range Energy Modeling scenario, LREM-E) in 2030. (EAA 2007)


The water sector has a key role to play in the development and implementation of sustainable water technologies in and from Europe.

The water cycle in industry can be summarized by Figure 5.

 Figure 5: Water cycle in industry


A treatment train for waste water treatment can look as in Figure 6, depending on the quality and quantity of the water use. It is not needed to treat all water completely but it is important to treat the water for the purpose:

 Figure 6: Typical treatment train for water purification in the process industry (Figure provided by Veolia, 2012).


Materials, process and technology developments might be targeted at any aspect of the chemical industry water use cycle.

Many initiatives around sustainable water management are ongoing and Key Enabling Technologies (KET) have been identified by European Technology Platforms (ETPs) and Networks of Excellence (NoEs).

The ChemWater project aims at coordinating European strategies on sustainable materials, processes and emerging technologies development in chemical process and water industry across technology platforms. A core rationale behind the project is to highlight the role of the European chemical and related process industries as solution providers within the context of the complex challenges of industrial – urban – rural water management. This role emphasizes a transformation in perspective which values “chemistry for water” alongside the more traditional notion of “water for chemistry”. Such a perspective allows the project to extend its reach and impact beyond the chemical sector itself to key strategic European process industry sectors such as mining, industrial biotechnology, health, food, electronic, pulp and paper, and energy.

To reach a water sustainable chemical industry in 2050, a Vision2050 has been developed by actors from the chemical and water industry, technology platforms and universities. (See D3.1 and D3.2) This vision results in many technological challenges and non-technological challenges that have to be tackled to reach a water sustainable chemical industry in 2050. The challenges identified through the Vision 2050 can be broken down into four main areas: water quantity, water quality, energy & resources and non-technological. This deliverable focusses on the materials, processes and technology challenges that arise in these areas. Table 1 gives an overview of the challenges identified through the visioning workshops.


Table 1: Overview of challenges following from the Vision2050



Water quantity

Limited access to water sources of sufficient quantity

Minimization of water consumption and increase of resource efficiency; lowering the Water Footprint of industrial products as well as the customers' Water Footprint

Deliver a more water sustainable industrial biotechnology

Water quality

Limited access to water sources of sufficient quality

Minimize pollution (water quality challenge)

Foster sustainable and competitive innovation

Increased demand for right water quality for the right use from industry

Decrease of available high quality water for industrial applications

Energy and resources

Develop low(er) energy water treatment processes

Addressing the water-energy interconnection

Make more effective use of industrial water effluents and water produced by the oil and gas industries, and other industries

Recovery of valuable materials from water that can be used in other processes and industries

Develop water treatment processes producing energy  and improve energy recovery


Fully exploit the opportunities arising through the industry's strategic position as an enabler for the entire economy

Decouple economic growth from resources, (higher) consumption and environmental impacts

Achieve wider sectorial integration and cooperation

‘Sustain the gain'

Anticipate and respond to more stringent legislation

Develop new environmental impact assessment tools

Establish viable metrics for water sustainability

Increase social awareness of water issues

Respond to more specific product demand from other sectors

Understand the appetite for risk in the sector as well as the risk sensitivity of interventions and innovations

Implement solutions using existing infrastructures

Convince stakeholders of the feasibility of innovative and water sustainable solutions


2. Challenges  

2.1. Overview  

In all four challenge areas listed in Table 1, we can define directions for solutions. Here we give an overview of technical directions for water quantity, water quality and energy & resources. These directions focus on all uses of water in the chemical industry, thus as a utility (cooling, steam), upstream (transport) and in the production processes itself (raw material, solvent).


2.2. Technical directions for Water Quantity  

The solutions for a water sustainable chemical industry lie in: reduce-reuse-recycle.

Different water saving measures include (Dworak 2007):

• Changes in production processes – reduce/ reuse/ recycle;

• Alternative water sources: Salt water use and On-site rainwater harvesting (leading to reduction in abstraction or water demand for the domestic network) – reduce;

• Changes in cooling technology – reduce;

• Recycling and re-use of water;

• Reduction in wastage and leakages;

• Implementation of the classical and new water saving devices considered for the household sector – as part of the water used in industry is used as domestic water by workers in industrial plants;

• Use of smart metering and monitoring technologies.



In the past, many chemical processes were using organic solvents and harsh conditions, like high temperature, low pH. To reduce the need for chemicals, many processes shifted towards water based processes, using milder conditions. This saved both chemicals and energy for heating. However, many processes are less effective, or reaction rate are much lower under these new circumstances. The effect of this is that the concentrations are lower and take a lot of water. Furthermore, the reclamation of product from the water-phase may be much harder than from the solvent phase. This leads to a large stream of polluted water. To use less water, the processes should run at higher concentrations, with higher reaction rates. This could be achieved by the development of new catalysts. Another solution would even be to shift back to organic solvent-based processes. It is often easier to get a product from the organic solvent phase by e.g. evaporation of the organic solvent, although this may again increase the energy use. Evaporation is an energy consuming process. However, the organic solvent can be reused after condensation, and by using heat exchangers, much of the energy can be re-gained.

To use even milder conditions, and less process steps, biotechnological processes were introduced. The milder conditions, ability to use less pure substrates, and the reduction of process steps is a major advantage of biotechnological processes over chemical processes. However, biotechnological processes are, in general, water-based processes. Also the concentration of substrate or products cannot be too high, as this is often limiting for biomass growth (substrate or product inhibition). This results in the need for large amounts of water. Another factor is the production of intracellular products. The downstream processing therefore requires the destruction of the cells, releasing many side products. As not one pure product is made, but many side products, including biomass, a fermentation broth is produced that has to be treated, before reuse is possible. Biotechnological processes have to be developed that use strains that can work at higher substrate and product concentrations, and that produce extracellular products. The transition towards more sustainable chemistry has a strong focus on, in general terms, ”working in milder conditions”. The change to biotech route is just one of the measures that can accomplish this. It is expected that the difference between ‘chemical industry’ and ‘biotech industry’ will disappear in time and all production sites are based on symbiosis where biotech is fully integrated in chemistry. A bottleneck to reach this is that experts from conventional chemical catalysis and those of biocatalysis have to come closer. There is an existing gap between the two communities in Europe.

Recent developments have led to an increased use of water in the (bio)chemical industry. Solutions could be in the development more effective processes using catalysts, development of solvent based processes under mild conditions, or in the development of biotechnological processes that can produce higher concentrations of extracellular product. New processes will be developed, e.g. based on mimicking nature, or e.g. advances in colloid science. Processes will be developed to be able to handle more concentrated streams (more efforts on feed side) but they will also need more energy.



Sources with a low water quality, such as the use of WWTP effluent can be used for many processes in the chemical industry, especially use as utility is an option. On-site rainwater harvesting will lead to a reduction in abstraction or water demand for the domestic network, reducing the stress on external water sources



The currently used water sources in chemical industry are drinking water, ground water, surface water and storm water. Desalinated seawater and urban wastewater are also used. All these water sources are (seawater after treatment), freshwater sources. If we want the chemical industry and other industries to grow in Europe, we will probably need more amounts of water. EU industry will not rely on fresh water abstraction but on the use of water from alternative resources, like desalination, industrial treated wastewater and, urban treated wastewater to reduce the chemical industry’s dependency on fresh water. As there is a competition for fresh water with other actors, such as agriculture, it would be an advantage to use salt water in chemical processes or as a utility. This will alleviate the stress on currently used water sources

The use of salt water, however, comes with its own problems. First, it contains components that may not be suitable in the process; second the use of salt water has a risk of scaling, bringing damage to process equipment (i.e. corrosion) and reducing process efficiencies, e.g. clogging of membrane processes. The use of salt water may need new installations and equipments that are corrosion resistant which are not installed today. That solution will require big investments in current installations and may have a negative impact in the competitiveness of EU industries. Nevertheless, many uses of salt water are possible, e.g. as cooling water. Seawater cannot be used for evaporative cooling, done by cooling towers, because of scaling. However, seawater can be used for once-through cooling. This will cause a small temperature rise to the water and can cause thermal pollution when being discharged back into the sea. This may, however, be less of a problem, depending on the local conditions and the size of the water body where it is discharged in. Vast amounts of seawater are available.

A trend in recent years is the use of algae for production of specific chemicals, for example in cosmetics or food applications. By carefully choosing the strain of algae, one can also select salt-water algae. In this way, less fresh water is needed.



As many chemical processes run at high temperature, process streams have to be cooled before further use. Mostly this is done using water as it has a high heat capacity and is environmentally friendly as it only produces water vapor. Cooling can be done by cooling circuits using large cooling towers. These cooling circuits take in (fresh) water to which some chemicals are dosed to prevent e.g. scaling or the growth of pathogens. Cooling results in a high evaporation of water, resulting in a loss of clean water, and concentration of components in intake water, such as salts. Dow chemicals in Terneuzen for example, discharges water from the cooling towers when it is concentrated by a factor 5, meaning that about 80% of the fresh water that has been taken in, is evaporated. Developing chemical processes that run at lower temperature leads to lower energy use, and lower use of cooling water.

Cooling tower water is now discharged when the conductivity becomes too high, in order to prevent scaling. Treating cooling tower discharge water, could lead to reuse of this water and further reduction of water use.

Conventional cooling methods are water intensive. Once through cooling needs large natural bodies of water (ocean, sea or major river) and disposes the waste heat into them, which may cause thermal pollution. Evaporative (wet) cooling towers require significant amounts of make-up water, emit vapor plumes meanwhile discharge concentrated cooling water blow-down, which may pollute the surroundings. As an alternative, new cooling systems have to be developed using less, or no water. The use of dry cooling systems completely eliminates the need for cooling tower make-up water. Emitting only warm and clean air, these dry systems have no adverse environmental effects, while freeing plants from dependence on water sources for cooling.



There is a competition for water for use in industry, agriculture and for urban use. To reduce the water intake for industry, cascading and recycling can be done within industrial sites or between different industrial partners. However, still a lot of water will be discharged from the industrial plants, with often an adequate quality for non-drinking applications. Cooperation with urban and agricultural actors will be important to understand each other’s needs, but also for the use of each other’s discharged water.

Industry uses a lot of water for cooling. By cooling, a lot of energy is discharged, as it is low grade heat. This heat, however, could be used by households to heat their homes. When the water is only 40 to 60oC this is already warm enough to use for heating. Cooperation between industries and (domestic) energy suppliers or local governments can lead to reuse of this water.



To reduce water intake, one of the main solutions would be to develop closed loop recycling and reuse.



Figure 7:

Closed loop water recycling, based on water quality.


T=treatment. T

he color indicates water quality where a lighter color indicates more pure water. 


Closed loop recycling involves cascading of processes, not only based on chemical resources, but also on water quality and energy content. Therefore there it is necessary to have water specifications adapted to each process, to define and use water quality fit for a specific use in order to propose optimized water treatment systems.

To reach closed loops, there is a need to develop technologies that can remove high concentrations of pollutant. As many treatment processes result in a treated cleaner stream and a rest-stream that contains concentrated pollutants, brines or sludge, there is a need for technologies that can recover valuables from these concentrated waste streams and valorize products. The treatment processes should be able to deal with many different influent qualities while being able to produce a constant effluent water quality that can be used in the processes. Application of advanced treatment systems or combinations may be necessary, and need to be developed further.

Instead of only developing closed loops, dry technologies could also be developed and used. However, for the time being, dry technologies do not seem to be the trend in companies’ developments because of problems of efficiency, higher energy demand, damage to equipment, etc. Companies do prefer recycling, closing loops. Reduction in energy consumption and the use of renewable energies are more important topics related to industrial water management.



When planning production of products, it should also be done with respect to the availability of water and water needs. The demand and supply of water, but also demand and supply of the products should be in balance. Novel and radically improved production processes are key to increase the energy, resource and CO2 efficiency in industrial processes. (SPIRE 2012). New processes have to be developed that produce the same product. This can be done in several ways (see Figure 8):

• Using the same raw material, but a different production process or different process conditions that require less water (reduce) or recover and recycle waste streams (re-use).

• Using different raw material that has a lower water footprint (replace).

• Using different raw materials that require a production process that uses less water (replace) It is also possible to produce a different product that has similar properties and is therefore suitable for the same purpose, but that has a lower water footprint in production (reinvent).


Figure 8:

Possibilities for adaptations in production process to save water,

energy and resources

(SPIRE 2012) 



There is a need for a better understanding of the water use in a process. As there if not enough insight in the total water consumption of a process, nor of the water use per step, it is hard to see where measures are most effective. Tools have to be developed that create insight in the water use of a process. Only then wastages of water can be prevented. The quality of the water at each point in the process also plays an important role in this. When it is clear how much water is used, it will be easier to detect leakages in the system. Furthermore there is also a need for better sensor systems to detect leakages.



Research and development regarding domestic water use, has to be implemented in industry as well. This will be mainly water saving developments such as water saving toilets etc.


2.3. Technical directions for Water Quality

There are several strategies to deal with water quality problems that can form the basis of solutions for improving water quality (UN Water 2011)

• Prevention of pollution

• Treatment of polluted water

• Safe use of wastewater

Furthermore it is very important that a stable water quality is produced, regardless of the feed water quality. New technologies will have to be developed in different technology areas to tackle water quality problems and prevent and treat pollution to be able to reuse water.



In order to prevent the presence of persistent materials that are hard to treat, new production methods have to be developed that are safer. When it is possible, biodegradable chemicals should be used in Chemical process lines. This means that for example production processes using BrO3, should be replaced by alternative processes as this component is hard to treat. New techniques that need no water are highly beneficial. Some wet processes can be replaced by dry processes. For example, metal pickling once carried out by acids is replaced by sand blasting in which no liquid effluent is generated. The development of green chemicals (for water treatment but also for industrial production) is also a need to prevent environmental impact.



In order to reuse or recycle water within a production process, the water specifications for each process step have to be known, both regarding quantity and quality. Wastewater only has to be treated in such a way that it is fit for use. New equipment and technology for measurements to detect and quantify the presence of components is required. Water quality is often defined by the concentration of components present. Reduction of polluting components to a minimum level is often enough, without complete removal. When treating water fit for use, it is also important to consider the type of pollution. Is this pollution at a single point, organic pollution, dissolved components (mineral, metals), etc. This is unique for each process and the treatment has to be tuned for these specifications.

There is a need for selective sensors and inline sensor systems for direct control. In this way, a production or treatment system can be controlled by online analysis of selected compounds, that serve as steering parameters.

Treatment on site is considered an important approach to be developed/implemented in the future based on the advantages that it will bring: More efficient and specialized technologies can be used to remove specific substances; avoiding wide spread of substances in the environment; higher concentrations at the origin that can be easily removed; avoiding dilution of substances in waste water sewage with the consequences in their removal efficiency. Technologies have to be developed to treat components in situ, without dilution if possible within a production process. In the same way, selective separation technologies have also to be developed in order to be able to treat very specific fluxes.

More specialized separation technologies are needed (new substances, bioprocess waste, etc.). There is a need to have more technologies for the removal of high concentration of pollutant, such as biodegradable or persistent organics with the following constraints: presence of toxic compounds, effluent variability in composition and in load, high temperature. Research should also be made on new water technology which uses low amount of or no chemicals and which produce low quantity of sludge. Green chemicals such as antiscalant, biocide or cleaning product should be developed in order to produce less polluted brines and wastes. Technologies for separation based on more specific and advanced membranes (e.g. nano-membranes) should be developed.



Reuse of (treated) wastewater always brings along health issues. Treatment should be such that both biological and chemical contaminants cannot spread. Online detection of pathogens and specific chemicals is important, and more specific sensors have to be developed and implemented.

Water can be recycled and reused within a production process or at a production plant. However, cross-sectorial cooperation within the process industry, or even cooperation with other actors like urban or agriculture is also possible. The quality of the water that is transferred from one user to another is then of major importance. Also legal issues play an important role because when one company delivers something to another company, who is then responsible for or how should be dealt with risks regarding water quality?



Technology is one of the keys to improve water quality, and when water quality can be improved, there is a larger potential for reuse, meaning a lower water intake needed. It is estimated that closed water cycling in industry in Europe can save 60-90% water. This can only be done, however, when technologies are developed that guarantee a good and stable water quality. When new treatment technologies are developed by the chemical industry, education to waterboards is indispensable.

Table 2 gives an overview of technology areas where research is required. These areas are identified by the water industry. The chemical industry can play a major part in the developments of these new technologies, as a solution provider.

Table 2: Identified technology areas where R&D&I is required in order to reach a better water quality.


Technology area

Technology need

Biological treatment

Reliable and extended treatment regarding the high variability of influents due to load and temperature variation, complex matrix with toxic constituents (metals, organics, ...) and high salinity/conductivity 

Anaerobic treatment with energy recovery

Persistent organics treatment

Cost effective oxidative treatments with control of by-products

Catalytic combined processes for adsorption and/or oxidation

Green biocide for biofouling control

Catalytic pretreatment technologies for selective removal


Low scaling membrane treatment

Membranes  with modified surface to limit scaling and fouling

Ceramic membranes with catalytic properties

Increase of membranes capacity by nanotechnologies

Low energy desalination

Membrane processes for high load effluent (New geometry of membranes (easy to clean) and new operating conditions)

Combined membrane processes for energy savings

Selective separation

Functionalized membrane

Highly selective adsorbent easy to regenerate

By-product valorization

Selective separation of valuable inorganics (e.g. metals)

Selective separation of concentrated organic compounds

Salt removal

Salt separation treatment integrated in industrial re-use strategy in order to limit corrosion and scaling

Brine treatment

Energy saving membrane concentrate treatment

Catalytic reduction of nitrate

Energy saving distillation processes

Low fouling selective membrane for electrodialysis treatment

Evaporation / Crystallization (precipitation or thermal) processes with by-product control

Process intensification

Improvement of kinetics, reduction of unit size

Engineered systems

Low energy gas/water/sludge handling


Reliable on line sensors and bio sensors

Monitoring of processes


2.4. Energy and resources  

To reach a water sustainable chemical industry, energy and resources play a major role. Water and energy are closely related as it takes a lot of energy to treat, heat and cool water, while the production of energy takes a lot of water. Many of the technology needs to reduce energy and resource usage, overlap with technology needs to improve water quality and can be found in Table 2.



During the production of chemicals, often harsh conditions are used. By rethinking the process, not only water can be saved, but also a lot of energy. Using lower temperature saves energy for heating, but also for cooling afterwards. Using different raw materials can save energy in the chemical production process, but also in the production of the raw materials itself. Figure 8 therefore does not only account for water, but also for energy and resources. The total footprint of a process, regarding water, energy and resources, should be considered. Life cycle analysis (LCA’s) can already be made but this should be done more. There is a need for more energy efficient equipment. The contribution of Membrane, Catalysts and Nanomaterial technologies to the water management, lies in the aspects of less energy consumption through reduction of temperature and pressure in the chemical process industry and also other sectors thus, making them more competitive.



Traditional wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) using aerobic systems, use much energy by oxidation to destroy the energy that is still in the components, in the form of COD. A trend has already started to use more anaerobic systems that can recover the energy in the wastewater into a valuable product such as methane. New biological water treatment plants with energy production should be developed that can use a wider range of feed components, and that have a higher energy efficiency. A new development is for example the development of microbial fuel cells. WWTPs that produce energy are called ‘WWTP with positive energy’ or ‘energy factory’ ( As not all waste streams are suitable for anaerobic digestion, water treatment systems with low energy consumption should be developed. The newly developed NEREDA system is an example of an aerobic system with lower energy consumption than conventional systems. Furthermore it also needs 30% less area. Another high tech development is the use of membrane bioreactors (MBR), needing much less area than conventional systems while they can treat wastewater streams with a very high COD concentration. For the treatment of salt streams, reverse osmosis systems are used. However, when low grade waste heat is available, it may be favorable to use membrane distillation, as this requires heat instead of electrical energy for desalination. Existing water treatment systems should be optimized for their energy consumption on the short term. By cooperation with other sectors, residual energy can be used.


Waterschap Veluwe, NL Waterboard Veluwe in Apeldoorn, NL, uses the biogas from their anaerobic digesters for the treatment of both domestic and industrial wastewater, to produce its own electricity. The heat that is released by this electricity production is sold to energy company Essent, who distributes the heat to the new neighborhood Zuidbroek to heat houses and tap-water. This is an example of cooperation between the domestic sector, industry and the energy sector, to optimize the use of energy that is contained in wastewater.  



A lot of resources are present in waste waters and wastes as metals (value metals, strategic metals), mineral compounds, organic, etc. Treatment trains have to be developed that include re-use and/or valorization of these resources. This re-use can be internal re-use on the industrial site or for external re-use for other applications. Indeed this would decrease the environmental impact on resources in minimizing the consumption of resources (e.g. metals) and their discharge in the environment as pollutant.

Many conventional treatment systems are based on the complete oxidation of organic components. This means a conversion of high valuable, high energy containing components to low valuable, low energy containing CO2. Instead of oxidation of components present in the waste streams, there is a need for materials that can selectively recover valuable components from waste streams. The recovery of valuable materials out of waste water which can be put into value throughout the value chain and produce reusable water has to be addressed more.

During treatment of water, the products are clean water and often a relatively concentrated waste stream. This can be in the form of sludge but also for example during desalination, brine. Brines from industrial processes have a wide variety, concerning amounts, concentration, composition and contaminants. An in-depth study could reveal the best streams for recovering salts, water and reduction of the environmental impact, in combination with low or even negative costs (WssTP 2012a).

Technologies have to be developed to deal with this concentrated stream and valorize this. When salts in brines can be crystallized selectively, a new product is made that can be used as a resource for other processes. Components that cannot be oxidized, such as metals or phosphate, often end up in the waste sludge. There is a need to develop selective water treatment processes than can recover added value products from waste streams (e.g. metals or organic).

During water treatment, some chemicals are dosed. The dosage of these chemicals should be optimized to reduce chemicals use. Furthermore these chemicals should be replaced by newly developed more sustainable chemicals.



Classical coal fire plants or oil refineries use large quantities of water, mainly for cooling. A new source for energy is shale gas. Shale gas is natural gas formed from being trapped within shale formations. Shale gas has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in the United States since the start of this century, and interest has spread to potential gas shales in the rest of the world. In order to release the gas from the shale layer, hydraulic fracturing, by pressurized water, is induced. Chemicals are added to the water to facilitate the underground fracturing process that releases natural gas. Some 0.5% chemicals (friction reducer, agents countering rust, agents killing microorganisms) need to be added to the water. Since (depending on the size of the area) millions of liters of water are used, this means that hundreds of thousands liter of chemicals are often injected into the soil. Only about 50% to 70% of the resulting volume of contaminated water is recovered and stored in above-ground ponds to await removal by tanker. The remaining "produced water" is left in the earth. The wastewater from such operations often lead to foul-smelling odors and heavy metals contaminating the local water supply above-ground.

A role of the chemical industry could be the development of ‘green’ fracturing chemicals, and the development of treatment processes for the contaminated water. In the EU Horizon 2020 program, shale gas is also addressed and €30 billion is available for research that 'addresses major concerns shared by all Europeans, such as climate change'. This could also be used for the development of green chemicals and treatment processes. (Shale gas 2012, Power-technology 2012)


2.5. Non-technical challenges

By developing new technologies, much water can be saved, and the quality and safety of water can be improved. However, to drive changes further and faster, also many non-technological challenges were identified. These involve political, legal and environmental drivers as well as drivers concerning education and public awareness.



Society, business and industry in Europe will get big benefits if the EU Industry becomes a leader in water management. It will be important to change the negative public perception of chemical industry to a positive perception. It should be made clear to the general public that chemistry does not equal danger. This should be done by education, making the benefits coming out of chemistry more known to the general public (e.g. recent campaigns set up by large companies like BASF, Solvay in airports etc.).

Actions are required to have a more targeted dissemination on how the chemical industry acts as solution provider, also in the area of water treatment. The dissemination efforts should be better aligned/focused, e.g., the international year of chemistry offered a good opportunity but this opportunity was not used sufficiently. Show cases/demonstrations are very powerful tools to support positive dissemination actions. The actions should be made more visible and more present in daily life, results should be published to a broader public (e.g. the results from the ChemWater workshops).

Not only the perception about the chemical industry has to change, but also the awareness of the public about the amount of water, energy and resources used to produce products. They should become aware that new products with similar properties may have a lower footprint than the products they are used to. As a marketing tool, some kind of quality label ‘produced according to principles of sustainable chemistry’ or something like this could be beneficial.

Social awareness of water issues has to be increased. Societal awareness of the benefits involved in alternative water sources should be raised. Although some progress has been made, the use of alternative water resources and particularly reclaimed urban wastewater is still not fully understood/ accepted by society. Nevertheless the (re)use of alternative water sources will be one of the solutions for sustainable water use.



One challenge for the chemical industry is to fully exploit the opportunities arising through the industry’s strategic position as an enabler for the entire economy. If the European chemical industry wants to become a leader in sustainable water management, the Industry must supply new products, services and technology solutions keeping in mind that these offers have to be competitive. Otherwise, we may risk not to achieve the global leadership. Industry has to develop the necessary infrastructure to implement new solutions.

The chemical industry should focus on collaboration among different industries or sectors in water reuse; sometimes water reuse is difficult within the same company/process but could be the right quality of water for other industry. When selecting a location for a new production site, the cooperation and presence of neighbors should also be considered. Innovation inspired by the chemical industry is often a driver for product development in downstream sectors. These downstream users of the products and services of the chemical industry are increasingly becoming directly involved in the innovation process in the chemical industry. This requires the industry to adapt its business and partnership models. (Cefic 2012) Cooperation throughout the whole value chain can lead to more sustainable production/use patterns. Cooperation with others also involves risks. When a company delivers (waste) water to another company, these companies depend on each other. Both the water quality and quantity should have minimum requirements. Partnership models have to deal with this dependency. This should also involve emissions and costs related emissions as emissions will also transfer from one company to another. Framework policies and business models will need to be adapted to this situation to allow the successful implementation of new technologies and “symbiotic” approaches.

As water is crucial in production, companies should also anticipate on the risk of not having water. By closed loop recycling and reuse, the dependency on external water sources already decreases. However, in most processes, external water will always be necessary. Implementing innovations targeted on water reduction, will alleviate the dependency on water sources but also involves risks of changing production processes. New products with properties similar to old products but with a lower footprint may still need legal approval for the market. Companies should consult with governments how to deal with these risks.

As regulations and legislations regarding emissions and water use, change regularly, companies should anticipate on this. Having insight in water use and pollution emissions will enable companies to take actions. When regulations change, companies can more easily respond.


The Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis The Kalundborg Symbiosis is an industrial ecosystem, where the residual product of one enterprise is used as a resource by another enterprise, in a closed cycle. An industrial symbiosis is a local collaboration where public and private enterprises buy and sell residual products, resulting in mutual economic and environmental benefits. In the development of the Kalundborg Symbiosis, the most important element has been healthy communication and good cooperation between the participants. The symbiosis has been founded on human relationships, and fruitful collaboration between the employees that have made the development of the symbiosis-system possible. The symbiosis focusses on exchange of energy, recycling of waste products and recycling of water.    



There is a lack of real/reliable data. Having the information is crucial for implementing improvements (you improve what you measure). Companies could take the lead in measuring more. Europe is probably the region of the world where legislation is most stringent, especially concerning industries and in this case, water. Innovations in water challenges, where the chemical industry will be one of the key players will help to achieve the targets defined in regulations fostering a more sustainable Europe. By the development of new environmental impact indicators for toxicity, biotoxicity, bioindicators, etc, better insight can be gained in the water footprint of a process. Development of environmental impact tools, using these newly developed indicators, should also establish viable metrics for water sustainability. Only then, it will be possible to compare different sites at different locations.

There is no strong economic driver for the reduction of water use. Often it is said that water is too cheap. A small investment to optimize the production regarding raw material efficiency, often delivers a much higher economic benefit, than investing in water efficiency measurements where the return on investments take longer periods.

 Figure 9: Comparison of agricultural, industrial and household water prices in late 1990s (Lallana 2003)


The water framework directive requires Member States to ensure, by 2010, that water-pricing policies provide adequate incentives to use water resources efficiently and to recover the true costs of water services in an equitable manner. Industry also tends to be price sensitive to water supply and treatment costs. Consequently, higher water prices are leading to reduced water use through water saving technology and re-use. Appropriate water pricing based on the integration of sound social, economic and environmental principles contributes to the development of sustainable water policies. Water pricing policy needs to be consistent with other sectorial, structural and cohesion policies. Figure 9 gives an indication of the costs for water in several EU countries. (Lallana 2003) As can be seen, water, especially for agriculture, is not very expensive. The price lies around 1-1.5 €/m3. The prices for water differ a lot but this is largely dependent on how this price is determined. Whether the water price covers distribution, treatment, tax rates, operating expenditure, depreciation and a return on capital employment etc. differs per country. More stringent water-pricing policies could lead to more water saving. At this moment, the risk of not having water is not reflected in the price of water.

Regulations are also a barrier to implement new models encouraging water recycling and reuse. Different regulations at European level, with different quality requirements make more difficult to implement new technologies, like the new concept “water fit for use”. Trans-boundary situations will need also special consideration. New incentives for industries could also help in the implementation of more sustainable water use.



Education can be seen in two ways. The first is to educate the general public about water issues and water footprint of products (social awareness). The second way is to educate professionals. This means that in every level of education, primary, secondary, university –level, there should be attention for science and skills for innovation. There should be special tracks focusing on water technology. Some steps have already been made, e.g. there is a master-track of Water Technology from Wageningen UR/ TU Twente in the Netherlands. Development of new technologies is often done in universities, and this can be stimulated with grants, such as Marie-Curie grants, focusing on water technology. Education of people in the water sector, such as waterboards, is indispensable for the implementation of new technologies.


3. Direction for solutions

The chemical industry can perform research and produce products that can be essential in a sustainable water management. Table 2 provides technology needs in several technology areas in water treatment for reaching a good water quality. These technologies can be developed in several domains, including membranes, nanomaterials, and catalysis. Some directions for solutions in these areas, specific for water treatment are given in this section. This does not only focus on industrial water, but also solutions for water treatment for urban and agricultural water, as can be provided by the chemical industry.


3.1. Membranes

Membrane processes are considered key components of advanced water purification and desalination technologies. As there are many membrane based water treatment technologies, membranes already play an important role in water treatment. Examples are reverse osmosis and nanofiltration. Much research on membrane development is ongoing and membranes can also be unique and essential tools for a sustainable development in water treatment (WssTP 2012b)

Membranes are abundant in nature and their architecture is very much the same as artificial membrane. Their functions are, however, not the same. As biological membranes often contain membrane enzymes accelerating reactions, they may be more specific than artificial membranes.

Biological membranes can thus serve as examples for the development of new membranes. The development of new membranes as a new operation system/ design, in combination with catalysts and others specific functions generated from nanotechnology, could change the ideas about water treatment, as well as the scale. Using membranes and thin layers could create new engineering concepts.

Research should focus on environmentally friendly designs in membrane processes

• Novel designs are required to reduce environmental footprint on different levels and phases of membrane applications in water and wastewater treatment, desalination and water reuse

• Impacts range from the discharge of concentrates and waste streams to the usage of chemicals and the disposal of the used membranes and modules => “Green membrane” approaches

• Among the possible innovative designs : innovative operating conditions (high feed water recovery, lower chemicals use); membrane production as well as recovery and disposal with low footprint; biodegradable or recyclable membrane materials; membranes from bioplastic; low energy treatment and handling of membrane waste streams (concentrates, brines, etc.) towards reuse of valuable constituent.

• Improvements should be justified by standardized and proven methods such as life cycle analysis according ISO method.

• Develop membranes with new material to reduce fouling , such as highly hydrophilic low fouling membranes which reduce cleaning frequency

• Research is needed on new membrane materials or configurations for treatment of highly loaded effluent such as vibrating membranes, oxidant resistant membrane or ceramic membranes with catalytic properties

• Increase membrane capacity by for example nanotechnologies or biomimetic material

• Develop hybrid membrane processes, such as membrane+ adsorption, membrane+ oxidation in order to have more compact and economical systems


3.2. Nanomaterials

Nano-materials comprise a diverse set of substances that are defined by the particle size: They have at least one dimension that measures less than 100 nm (compare: The width of human hair is about 80.000 nm). Nanoparticles exist in nature (like clays, amorphous silica, iron oxyhydroxides, viruses), but engineered nano-materials (like nano-Ag, nano-titania, cerium oxide, fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and quantum dots) have captured the most attention in recent years. Their minute size bestows nano-materials with properties that differ from those of larger particles:

• Large surface-area-to-mass ratio

• Increased reaction kinetics

• Optical and electrical properties

Commercial uses of nano-materials have developed quickly (from cosmetics to medicine), and the global production of nano-materials is expected to increase exponentially. In recent years, manufacture and use of nano-materials has spanned a wide range of products. However, our understanding of the potential risks (health and environmental effects) posed by nano-materials has not increased as rapidly as research has regarding possible applications.

Nanotechnology presents many benefits for environmental technology applications, such as remediation, treatment or sensor development for monitoring purposes. In the field of water, nanotechnology has the potential to contribute to long-term water quality, availability, and viability of water resources such as through advanced filtration that enables sustainable water reuse, recycling or desalination (nano4water 2012).

Nano materials could play an important role in several water treatment areas. One such area is water remediation. For water remediation, there is a need for technologies that have the ability to remove toxic contaminants from these environments to a safe level and doing so rapidly, efficiently, and within reasonable costs is important. Nanotechnology could play an important role in this regard. An active emerging area of research is the development of novel nanomaterials with increased affinity, capacity, and selectivity for heavy metals and other contaminants. The benefits from use of nanomaterials may derive from their enhanced reactivity, surface area and sequestration characteristics. A variety of nanomaterials are in various stages of research and development, each possessing unique functionalities that is potentially applicable to the remediation of industrial effluents, groundwater, surface water and drinking water.

The combination of membranes and nanomaterials is contributing to the development of more efficient and cost-effective water filtration processes. There are two types of nanotechnology membranes that could be effective: nanostructured filters, where either carbon nanotubes or nanocapillary arrays provide the basis for nanofiltration; and nanoreactive membranes, where functionalized nanoparticles aid the filtration process. Nanoparticles could play a role in water disinfection. Nanotechnology may present a reasonable alternative for development of new chlorine-free biocides. Among the most promising antimicrobial nanomaterials are metallic and metal-oxide nanoparticles, especially silver, and titanium dioxide catalysts for photocatalytic disinfections (Theron, 2008) Identification and development of nano-materials for water treatment lie in the following fields (Stöcker 2012):

• Photo-catalysts for the removal of water pollutants and active under visible light irradiation (not only UV light)

• Catalysts/adsorbents for the removal of arsenic and reduction of nitrates/nitrites in water

• Materials for water desalination: Reverse osmosis and nano- and/or micro-filtration

• Adsorbents/Adsorption properties of graphenes and MOFs

• Development of high surface to volume carriers for bacteria

• Antifouling: New catalysts combined with oxidants (titania/ozone)


Emerging Water Treatment Technologies and devices for water monitoring

• Removal of nano-materials from drinking water

• Nanosensors

• Nano-membranes for waste water treatment with lower energy consumption



• With respect to human and ecological exposure: Information is needed concerning the concentrations of naturally occurring and engineered nanoparticles in water.

• Continuous development of methods to detect and characterize nano-materials is needed. Those methods must be sensitive, cost-effective and suitable for the application with complex matrices (like surface water)

• Research on the fate and transport of nanoparticles in the environment and in drinking water systems is needed.

• A more complete understanding of human and ecological health effects is needed, especially at environmentally relevant nanoparticle concentrations.



• Mechanism of nanoparticles removal from drinking water.

• Efficiency of existing treatment processes.

• Zeolites, MOFs as adsorbents

• Carbon nanotubes, graphenes as adsorbents

• Membrane applications: Fouling and concentrate waste water treatment and disposal.

• Do nanoparticles affect the removal of other substances during drinking water treatment processes?


3.3. Catalysis

The use of solid catalysts in the development of advanced technologies for water treatment has gained interest as catalysis can increase their performance, manageability, eco-sustainability, and reduce costs. Due to the large variety of wastewater situations in terms of composition and flow rate, a range of different or combinations of different technologies, is required. It is believed that it is possible to reach improved process sustainability by using solid heterogeneous catalysts in water treatment technologies. The use of solid catalysts offers a range of potential advantages in water treatment and remediation technologies but it is necessary to further develop background knowledge to fully understand limitations and advantages. Present results are promising and already a few industrial examples of applications exist. Examples include photocatalytic treatment of wastewater including advanced oxidation processes, wet air catalytic oxidation (WACO), catalytic ozonation, wet hydrogen peroxide catalytic oxidation (WHPCO), selective reduction of pollutants in water and catalytic permeable reactive barriers (CPRBs). The next step requires a more rational design and engineering of catalysts and reactors (Centi, 2005)



• Stability of the catalyst under conditions of wastewater treatment (especially in relation to leaching of transition metal active components)

• Synthesis of catalysts not containing toxic elements the leaching of which, even if in traces, may prevent the applicability of the technology according to current legislation

• Optimization of the catalysts structure and pore structure, because of the mass transfer problems which are completely different from the case of gas-phase reactions

• Relationship between surface catalyst properties (acido-base properties and their modification by adsorption of reactants, hydro-phobic/phylic properties, formation of double electric layers), and rate diffusion of radical and charged species from the bulk to catalyst surface (and inside pores)

• Reactor engineering, new advanced reactor engineering solutions are required in catalytic wastewater treatments.



• Increasing the selectivity and long-term stability of catalysts in order to reduce nitrates in groundwater and wastewater.

• Optimizing catalysts for the hydrodechlorination of chlorinated hydrocarbons.

• Development of catalysts for oxidation of ammonia or ammonium to nitrogen under mild reaction conditions.

• Expansion of the range of iron-based oxidation catalysts, e.g. by incorporation in zeolites.

• Development of colloidal reagents and catalysts which are suitable for in situ applications in contaminated groundwater aquifers – nanocatalysis.

• Development of catalysts for breaking down pharmaceuticals in hospital wastewaters.

• Combination of adsorptive enrichment of trace pollutants and their catalytic conversion.

• Protection of catalysts against being overgrown by biofilms and hence deactivated in long-term operation.


4. Allocation of skills, competencies and funding

Many initiatives are ongoing to reach a more water sustainable chemical industry. These initiatives are driven by several actors: the chemical industry, the water industry, the European Union, national, regional and local governments and by research institutes and universities. Fundamental research is usually done by universities and research institutes while more applied research by the industries itself or in cooperation between universities and industries. Further development is then done by the industry. New initiatives stimulate a closer public-private-partnership and a faster introduction of new technologies into the market. This section gives an overview of initiatives and programs that are ongoing and will promote to reach the Vision 2050.


4.1. Technical challenges

To come to a more water sustainable chemical industry, new technology is needed. The development and introduction of new technologies into the market, does not only take time, but is also an expensive process. Development and market introduction goes through several stages, from fundamental lab research to a final commercial plant. The time per step usually decreases when coming further into this development, while the investment required increases. The investment needed to scale-up laboratory level technology to miniplant or pilot scale level is typical part of an R&D budget (1-10MM euro). The next step of building demonstration capability is much larger (10-100MMeuro) with a significant risk of both technology and market introduction failure and therefore support measures to continue to drive innovation forward are key (bridge the valley of death). Then once there is successful technology demonstration at market scale and market acceptance the step of commercializing the technology needs to be taken. This is the most expensive step, typically factors (5-10+) higher than for a demonstration capability, even for a single commercial plant. (SPIRE 2012)

As development progresses, more private money will be involved. Nevertheless, it can be worthwhile for companies to invest in this, because a significant return on investment can be expected. Several initiatives are started by the EU to get public and private money together, to start up demonstration projects to get a more (water) sustainable industry.

To get better insight in the use of water at a certain production site, or to make a rational choice for a new site, (online) tools are available to calculate water consumption and efficiency across a company’s facilities around the world.



The aims of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Water is to facilitate, support and speed up the development and deployment of innovative solutions to water challenges; and create market opportunities for these innovations both, inside and outside of Europe

As part of the Innovation Union flagship initiative within the Europe 2020 Strategy, the EIP on Water has aligned its vision with the expectations of the mentioned initiative, therefore the vision for the EIP Water is: “ To stimulate creative and innovative solutions that contribute significantly to address the water challenges at the European and global level, while these solutions are stimulating sustainable economic growth and job creation”.

The water challenges in Europe are important regarding quantity, quality and energy, innovation in technological and non-technological topics will help Europe to overcome the foreseen difficult situations that may arise in the coming years and position Europe as leader in the global water sector.

Water is a key resource for EU industry sectors such as the process industries, where efficiency gains are hindered by a lack of applicable innovations.

To respond to the challenges and opportunities in water, the following priority areas have been identified:

- Water reuse and recycling;

- Water and wastewater treatment;

- Water and energy nexus;

- Flood and drought risk management of water related extreme events;

- Ecosystems services

With the following cross-cutting priorities:

- Water governance;

- Decision support systems and monitoring and

- Financing for innovation

Finally, smart technologies have been identified to be of key relevance as an enabling factor within all other priorities.

Anticipated outputs of the EIP on water include:

• Identification of barriers to innovation; develop, test and demonstrate concrete activities, actions, prototypes and solutions in relation to particular water challenges

• dissemination of breakthroughs and innovative solutions • removal of water innovation barriers – regulatory, financial, standardization, technical, social, etc. – which hamper the successful delivery of innovations to the market; and

• a water innovation 'market place' to promote interaction between those facing water problems and those who can provide potential solutions, regardless of their geographical location.

The EIP on water is expected to be fully operational in early 2013 and to start delivering first results within one year.



SPIRE (Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy efficiency) is a proposal for a European Private Public Partnership (PPP). The realization of SPIRE is essential in order to rejuvenate the European process industry base and make the paradigm shift of decoupling economic growth from resource impact.

The European process industry is uniquely positioned to drive this initiative as it transforms raw material feedsctock into intermediate and end-user products and thus sits at the core of every value chain.

The cross-sectorial research and innovation roadmap presented by SPIRE provides the pathway for the Process industry to decouple resource consumption from human wellbeing and achieve increased competitiveness in the European process industry.

Spire focusses on the following sectors in the process industry: cement, ceramics, chemicals engineering, minerals and ores, non-ferrous metals, steel and water, being the chemical industry one of the key contributors to the SPIRE investment in innovation.

SPIRE focusses on the following six key components: feed, process, application, waste2resource, horizontal (facilitating cross-sectorial benefits), and outreach (to process industry, policy makers, and citizens).



The EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation is called Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. Running from 2014 to 2020 with an expected budget of around €80 billion, the EU’s new program for research and innovation is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe. Water is pointed out to be one of the priorities for the research program linked to the European Innovation Partnership on Water (EC 2012c).



There are many programs in which industry works together with public authorities and water boards in so called public-private partnerships.



Much research is being performed through European Technology Platforms (ETP) and Networks of Excellence (NoEs) and technology clusters. A European Technology Platform (ETP) is, in essence, a mechanism to bring together Industry, Academy and Research Centers in a particular sector or activity, to develop a long-term vision addressing specific challenges in Research, Development and Innovation, creating a coherent, dynamic strategy to achieve that vision, and steering the implementation of an action plan to optimize benefits for all parties and society (Suschem 2012). ETPs are organized in the research areas Energy (7), ICT (9), Bio-based economy (6), Production & processes (9), and Transport (5). SusChem and WssTP represent the chemical industry and the water sector respectively and are part of the Production and Processes. Cooperation with other ETPs from this research area would be obvious.

ETPs and NoEs relevant for a water sustainable chemical industry involve the following:

SusChem: European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry. SusChem addresses challenges specific to the European chemical and industrial biotechnology industry for the benefit of society as a whole and aligns its objectives to the new Europe 2020 strategy, addressing the Societal Challenges and focusing its contribution to the main goal of creating jobs and growth for Europe.

WssTP: Water supply and sanitation Technology Platform

EMH: European Membrane House. EMH is dedicated to enhance the industrial implementation of membrane-based technologies. We also want to help develop a coherent and structured European system for membrane research and technological innovation.

ERIC: European Research Institute of Catalysis A.I.S.B.L: The purpose of ERIC is to foster excellence of its Members in the field of catalysis, by facilitating their integration at research, training and educational levels

ENMIX: European Nanoporous Materials Institute of Excellence (ENMIX). The ENMIX organisation has arisen from the EU-FP6 Network of Excellence (NoE) ‘IN-Situ Study and Development of NanoPORouS Materials’ (INSIDE-PORes), assembling European research groups in a coherent field of activities related to nanoporous materials.

Aqueau: ACQUEAU is an initiative to boost growth and innovation in the water sector. ACQUEAU is an industry driven EUREKA Cluster dedicated to water related technologies and innovation. It aims at promoting innovation and market driven solutions to develop new technologies in the European water sector.

Nano4water: The nano4water cluster is a coalition of research projects, funded by the European Commission following a Joint Call on nanotechnologies for water treatment (FP7-ENV-NMP-2008-2). The aim of this action is to support research and technological development in the field of water treatment by applying developed or adapted nano-engineered materials to promising separation, purification and detoxification technologies.



WBCSD Global Water Tool (GWT): is a free and easy-to-use tool for companies and organizations to map their water use and assess risks relative to their global operations and supply chains. For companies facing the challenge of operating in multiple countries with very different water contexts, the Global Water Tool is really the first critical step in making water-informed decisions.

By comparing a company’s sites with the best available water, sanitation, population and biodiversity information on a country and watershed basis, the GWT allows to answer the following questions:

• How many of my sites are in extremely water-scarce areas? Which sites are at greatest risk?

• How much of my total production is generated from my most at risk sites?

• How many of my employees live in countries that lack access to improved water and sanitation?

• How many of my suppliers will be in water-stressed regions in 2050?


WBCSD GEMI Local Water Tool™ (LWT): As the GWT does not provide specific guidance on local situations, the LWT is developed. Specific guidance on local situations requires more in-depth systematic analysis at the plant level. The LWT is a free tool for companies and organizations to evaluate external impacts, business risks, opportunities and management plans related to water use and discharge at a specific site or operation.

The Global Water tool for oil and gas and Global Water tool for Power utilities are water tools that focus on specific industrial sector.



Under the Aquafit4use project (FP7, 2008-2012) a software tool has been developed, called WESTforINDUSTRY. It is a user-friendly, easily accessible tool that encompasses the advantages of the current tools, adds new features and supports end-users and their consultants by answering the most important questions on their water system. A Windows based software tool that enables different industries to optimize their system by making simulations of their existing and adapted water system and see the impact of the proposed measures and the implementation of new technologies. A database on water quality demands and a database of models are important parts of the tool. The software is relatively simple and user-friendly, so that end-users do not require in-depth knowledge of hydrodynamics or kinetics to use it effectively. With the help of the tool’s database, the relevant parameters can be selected and the quality demands defined for the most important sectors and water uses, such as heat exchangers and cooling equipment. Models are available for the most important treatment processes and utilities, and in addition custom model of any complexity can be used. Simulations can be carried out of the existing water system and the proposed alternative systems and their effect on water quality and volumes can be shown in a table, ranking the scenarios for the different objective values and giving a cost-estimation. In addition a clear visual presentation of the network is given.

• Data bases of models and water quality demands

• Simulation and optimization with integrated modeling

• Uncertainty and risks analyses


4.2. Non-technological challenges

Many of the ongoing EU programs focus on integrated water resources management, to implement the Water Framework Directive. Development of tools for Life Cycle Assessment could give insight in the water footprint of products. Although laws in Europe are already very strict, changing laws and regulations can be drivers for change. Technological improvements can, however, be implemented without extra regulations.


4.2.1. EU-programs:


Multi-sectoral Integrated and Operational decision support system for sustainable use of water resources at the catchment scale (Mulino). The Mulino project (2002-2004) has led to the development of MULINO decision support system (mDSS), a decision support system for water resource management. The mDSS tool is designed to integrate environmental (especially hydrological) models with multiple-criteria evaluation procedures It is a software tool that help to organize and communicate the data that should be used to describe the decision context in terms of sustainability, in a holistic way by including environmental, economic and social information. (Giupponi 2002, Mysiak2005).



The SPI-Water cluster consists of three EC FP7 projects dealing with Science-Policy-Industry Interfacing in Water management: STREAM, WaterDiss2.0, and STEP-WISE. It focusses on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.

Sustainable Technologies and Research for European Aquatic Management (STREAM). STREAM project aims at raising awareness on the state of the art of water technologies research and at bringing it to the interest of policy makers and potential up-takers through a diversified series of dissemination and communication actions tailored to the needs of the different categories of stakeholders: researchers, policy makers, industry and SMEs

WaterDiss 2.0: When looking at the impact of research on water management practices, it is demonstrated that the connection between research and the policy process is not efficient. The typical length of time needed to complete the development cycle (in the water sector) is 10 years. This means that research commissioned today will impact water management practices within about 12 years, far after the next milestones of the Water Framework Directive (2015, 2021). The general objective of the project is to speed-up the transfer of research outputs to water management institutions (a basin authority or a city) with a targeted time lag of only 3 - 5 years.

Step-wise: Science, Technology and Policy Interfacing using WISE-RTD. The objectives of the WISE-RTD Association are to manage the comprehensive disclosure of existing scientific and technical knowledge with direct relevance to WFD implementation and all other Water Related Water Directives and Guidelines (national, regional).


4.2.2. Laws/ regulations that are about to change


Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals – REACH entered into force on 1st June 2007. REACH is the main EU chemicals legislation, providing effective chemicals management and transparency through the supply chain. REACH makes industry responsible for assessing and managing the risks posed by chemicals and providing appropriate safety information to their users. In parallel, the European Union can take additional measures on highly dangerous substances, where there is a need for complementing action at EU level. It is also an important driver for sustainability and an ongoing journey aimed at providing safer use of chemicals based on scientific understanding. By the end of 2018 all substances manufactured or imported in Europe will be registered with the corresponding technical dossiers. Beyond that, new, innovative products coming on to the European market will comply with REACH. In this sense, REACH helps increase transparency about chemicals and their use in Europe, which ultimately benefits consumers (Cefic 2012a, EC 2012a).

Responsible Care is a key part of the global industry’s contribution to the United Nations’ Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). Together with the Global Product Strategy, industry is answering stakeholder expectations for continuous performance improvement.

Responsible Care and the GPS provide frameworks for training, setting up working groups and services to support companies and consortia in the different steps of REACH.



The Directive on industrial emissions 2010/75/EU (IED) was adopted on 24 November 2010 in order to prevent, reduce and as far as possible eliminate pollution arising from industrial activities in compliance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the principle of pollution prevention. The Commission aims to update reference documents for best available techniques (BAT reference documents) not later than 8 years after the publication of the previous version.


4.2.3. Non-regulation driven challenges


Life cycle assessments (LCA) offers the framework to deliver meaningful information on the ‘water footprint’ of manufactured goods, delivered services, business operations, and of consumers’ behavior, while always keeping the eye open for other relevant areas of environmental concern in order to avoid problem shifting across environmental problems and life cycle stages (ISO 14040 2006). Despite these rather obvious capabilities of LCA, the topic of freshwater use has traditionally received very limited attention in LCA. However, there is a considerable interest from industries, among many others the chemical, energy, pulp and paper, and aluminum industries, in efficient methods to be implemented into tools for product stewardship which assist to proactively manage sustainable rationing of freshwater resources. (Koehler 2008)



Many of the above mentioned ETPs, NoEs and technology clusters also have, as one of their pillars, horizontal and outreach activities. This means that they also focus on cross-sectorial issues and communication with policy makers and the public.


5. Recommendations

To reach integration between chemical industry and biotech industry, experts from conventional chemical catalysis and those of biocatalysis have to come closer.

EU programs like SPI-water focus on the communication between policy makers and scientists. There are, however, not many initiatives yet that focus on public awareness of water issues.

EU programs focus a lot on water resources management and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. There are some tools available that address decision making for companies regarding their water use, such as the WBCSD Water Tool. These tools, however, often lack the local scale, or do not include the total footprint, including water, energy and resources. Tools implementing all these three aspects on a local scale should be developed.

Both technological and non-technological challenges have to be solved to reach a more water sustainable chemical industry. Cooperation between stakeholders on a technological level as well as addressing public awareness will be key. EU programs can help to facilitate this cooperation as well as many initiatives such as ETPs and NoEs.


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