Water, the most widely consumed and essential raw material for chemical industry, has gained attention of the policy makers, thus leading to enforcement of stringent effluent and wastewater treatment rules. In their quest to adhere to these regulations, chemical manufacturers are adopting technologies for effective management of water in their facility.
Mahesh Rao, Managing Director, Nalco Water India Ltd, who has over 27 years of experience in the water-treatment business covering a wide range of industries, believes that new-age technologies can provide effective solutions to save precious water for the chemical industry. In this interaction with Rakesh Rao, he discusses latest trends in wastewater treatment and technologies available to the chemical industry.
Are the wastewater/effluent treatment technologies used by the Indian chemical industry of same quality/standard that are used globally?
The wastewater treatment technologies used by the Indian chemical industry varies. For example, the refinery and petrochemical industry uses technologies, which are used globally or at times innovate and improve the global technologies, to ensure better system performance and provide more sustainable water reuse solutions. But that is a small part of the chemical industry.
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Many unorganised or smaller companies, which play a major role in the chemical industry, are normally content with developing very basic infrastructure. This might be due to lack of exposure to the more advanced technologies, which can lead to manifold increase in water savings. The technology companies should also realise the need to develop fit-to-use solutions for SMEs.
Are the regulatory reforms in the Indian chemical industry forcing manufacturers to adopt reliable wastewater treatment technology?
Certainly, with regulations are getting stricter, most of the industries today have a common challenge which is: ‘They can expand their production facility for which they will get the necessary approvals, power and other utilities, but in most cases they will not get or they do not have any fresh license to draw fresh/raw water. This means the industry needs to find ways to reduce/reuse and recycle water used in the premises’.
Which are the other factors leading to adoption of wastewater treatment technologies?
Besides regulations, it is basically the threat of communities living around the industries getting affected by the polluted waste, deterioration of ground water quality along with the availability of water throughout the year. We also see many corporates driving home the message of producing the finished product using sustainable solutions to ensure a greener planet. All these and many other are driving industries to adopt themselves to a better treatment methodology.
Which are the emerging/new technologies for treating wastewater/effluent from the chemical industry? Are you seeing increase in demand for these technologies from the Indian chemical manufacturers?
Membrane separation processes, although widely used for last 10-15 years in water and wastewater applications, was not the preferred treatment methodology in chemical industries due the inadequate technological advancement and very little success stories globally. But this has changed. With recent advancements in providing fouling resistant and the usage of advanced polymer material in ultrafiltration membranes, it is possible to implement Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) based biological systems to treat wastewater.
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Most importantly, it is important to have the right level of automation and control which is sort of 24x7 water doctor that can help in making those decisions on operations and maintenance with less hassles and much easier. Advanced oxidation process is one more technology which can be good for chemical industry effluents.