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As one of the most energy intensive industries in the UK, the water industry cannot hide from the topic of carbon emissions and must do all it can to reduce our carbon footprint. Our Wastewater Sector Manager, Kevin Mooney, spoke to Institute of Water Magazine for their Winter Edition on how to find the balance between the all-important acts of carbon reduction and long-term efficient uses of energy.
When we consider carbon emissions, our minds often jump to transport emissions and the burning of fossil fuels, but electricity generation plays a major part in carbon emissions and the water industry contributes around 1% of the UK’s greenhouse gases. As new technology has emerged to increase the effectiveness of water treatment, so too often has the electricity consumption used in these technologies increased. However, this increase is often needed to ensure efficiency downstream. An example of this is the energy used in sludge pre-treatment within the water industry.
If water companies reduce the level of treatment at this stage, it would reduce carbon emissions in this area of the wastewater treatment works (WwTW), however we’d argue that when a holistic view of the entire work’s energy consumption is taken, it is evident that removing pre-treatment increases energy consumption downstream.
If sludge isn’t treated effectively with rag and grit being removed as soon as possible these materials will cause abrasion and wear, resulting in increased maintenance and downtime to repair parts of the WwTW or to catch up on uptime afterwards. However, treating the source material before it is fed into a digester has been shown to significantly reduce the need for cleanouts.
A TOTEX approach may be what’s needed to ensure a comprehensive approach to carbon reduction in WwTW. Carbon reduction is essential but will only succeed if we make decisions to reduce energy use per m3 of drinking water produced or wastewater treated, but also maintain or improve quality. Carbon reduction is a major issue and one we must face head one, we shouldn’t rush to make fast carbon reductions via electricity reduction alone in the short-term at the cost of quality and the water environment in the medium or long term.
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