Tackling the Challenges Created by Water-Energy Nexus


The energy industry is under tremendous pressure to minimize its carbon and water footprint. Tremendous amounts of water are required for the production of both oil and gas as well as power generation. In addition to the water consumed, there are also significant amounts of wastewater generated by these industries. This makes the energy industry the biggest consumer of water as well as its most profound polluter. Wc have a natural conflict between energy and water and die drivers for diis conflict include growing water scarcity, the attempt to control the amount of pollution, and growing pressure to minimize the amount of energy used. The water industry is continuously challenged to find ways to minimize the footprint of the energy industry in terms of both the water and energy it uses as well as the amount of pollution it leaves behind.

No Boundaries
The water-energy relationship is very interconnected and knows no boundaries. The regions of the world with the densest and most rapidly growing populations tend to be the areas with the most water scarcity issues as well as robust industrial development.  In areas that are not so water scarce, such as

North America, there are new energy sources being discovered that have critical water pollution issues. Both China and India are examples where the challenges arc the greatest. Both countries have burgeoning economies with massive industrial expansion and cxplodingpower infrastructure requirements. The significant water requirement of this growth coupled with a notable and rapidly growing water scarcity issue is an emerging problem for both countries.

In the Middle East there is extreme water scarcity, population growth, and continued exploration and refining of oil and natural gas, as well as a tremendous downstream processing industry.

In Europe there is a history of advanced technology in power, but with strict environmental regulations. In the United States there is clean coal technology, strict water discharge norms, and new natural gas exploration, all of which will demand cleaning up the water used by the energy industry.

Some Solutions To The Challenges
While the energy industry faces challenges in lowering its water footprint, there arc some good examples cf how the water a result arc becoming stricter, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking seriously at zero discharge solution to eliminate the discharge of waste. ZLD (zero liquid discharge) has been proven in several sites in Europe and the United States to solve, once and for all, the issue of Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) wastewater.

In Eastern Markets, where the water scarcity is serious, one of the biggest trends is for the high water consuming power industry to adopt utilizing recycled sewage as a feed water source. In addition to this, there is scope to recycle water within the plant, such as cooling tower blow down and optimize die entire water balance. Adopting these solutions can drastically reduce the fresh water consumption of power plants. India and China have started implementing these strategics successfully.

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