water efficiency in Europe's chemical industry

If Europe’s chemical industry – a sector with enormous growth potential – can achieve greater water efficiency, then the benefits will not just be environmental. Making better use of natural resources will help improve the sector’s competitiveness and ensure compliance with ever more stringent rules to protect the environment.

Resource efficiency does not come solely from technological innovation; it is also achieved through good business practice, and the benefits often flow into other sectors. This complete approach to sustainable industry is central to the EU-funded E4Water project, which was launched in May 2012.

The project is in the process of developing and validating new solutions for increasing water efficiency at chemical production plants. A 20% reduction in water use, a 30% reduction in wastewater production and a significant decrease in related energy use is expected across the project’s six test sites.

“E4Water will make major water-consuming industries in Europe – like the chemical industry – less dependent on natural water resources, and strongly reduce the impact of wastewater discharges into the environment,” explains project coordinator Thomas Track.

“Europe is the world market leader in chemicals, generating employment in Europe and elsewhere around the world. Innovative solutions and approaches can contribute to economic growth, create jobs and enhance Europe’s competitiveness.”

E4Water will also strengthen the global leadership of Europe’s water technology industry, and ensure that the chemical industry complies with EU regulatory requirements, through a subsequent decline in the release of pollutants and heat into the natural environment.

The involvement of companies should help to strengthen corporate risk assessment, covering issues such as health and safety, regulatory constraints like high water taxes and reputational risk, Track says. This process could also open up constructive negotiations between the industry and other stakeholders and public authorities on environmental and regulatory issues, he adds.