Energy-intensive industries are major users of fresh water, for e.g. processing, washing, diluting, heating, cooling, and transporting products. Since fresh water is a scare resource, breakthrough innovations are needed in energy-intensive industries to recycle water and create closed loops in industrial processes. Such closed loops would significantly reduce the use of fresh water and improve water availability in the relevant EU water catchment areas, as outlined in the Water Framework Directive, for other purposes (adjacent communities, farming and bio-based industries). Industrial symbiosis offers the potential for energy, water and other resource efficiency at a scale beyond energy intensive industries.
Proposals should aim at near-zero discharge using closed-loop systems in combination with recovery of energy and/or substances (resources) through the development of integrated water-smart strategies for industrial processes.
Strategies should take into account:
- Better characterising the water usage and production in the industrial processes;
- Defining recycling options with a combined water, waste and energy approach in an integrative system design method considering investment and optimal operations;
- Future production demand through design, control options, and technologies integration that reduce water consumption, recycle water, and reduce the use of fresh water resources in closed-loop industrial processes including cascading use of different kinds of water in industrial settlements or for compatible re-use in urban and rural areas.
Reprograming of water resources and optimisation of water management in industrial processes should apply the principles of waste - water - energy design in a circular context.
Proposals should develop new technologies and approaches at a large scale. It is anticipated to combine:
- Real time smart monitoring and management systems with innovative digital solutions for sensors and actuators (e.g. modelling and artificial intelligence) and;
- Recycling technologies such as highly selective separation or extraction processes and new solutions for water treatment to prevent fouling and corrosion.
Integrated Water Management should consider different qualities and sources of water, including desalination, re-use of treated wastewater, rainwater harvesting and gas humidity condensation (e.g., cooling tower blowdown). Development of `tailor-made' system solutions with demand orientation and scale-up testing to robust industrial processes will be required. Water re-use will subsequently lead to accumulation of pollutants. In-line monitoring should include these water quality control parameters linked to the process.
Clustering and cooperation with other selected projects under this cross-cutting call, and with other relevant projects, in particular those selected under SC5-04-2019 “Building a water-smart economy and society”, is strongly encouraged.
Proposals submitted under this topic should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the Introduction of this part of the Work Programme.
Activities should start at TRL 5 and achieve TRL 7 at the end of the project.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 8 and 12 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Several of the following impacts are expected:
- Significant reduction of the current use of fresh water resources;
- Significant steps towards near-zero discharge using closed-loop systems in industrial processes;
- Significant increase of the recovery of water, energy and/or substances and materials;
- Increase of resource and water efficiency by 30% compared to the state-of-the-art;
- Effective dissemination of major innovation outcomes to the current and next generation of employees, through the development of learning resources with flexible usability. These should be easy to integrate in existing curricula and modules for undergraduate level and lifelong learning programmes;
- The environmental gains in absolute figures, and weighted against EU and global environmental footprints, should be demonstrated;
- In addition, the replication potential should also be assessed.
Illustration Photo: Operator at the waste water treatment plant in Montreal (credits: Alanah Heffez / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))