Power Industry's Wastewater Treatment Demand Up

The North American market for water treatment systems in the power industry is extremely competitive, with price being a key factor. In particular, the market for wastewater treatment systems gains momentum because of increasingly stringent surface discharge standards and growing concerns over declining fresh water resources. Advanced technologies such as zero liquid discharge (ZLD) and flue gas desulphurization (FGD) blow down treatment devices continue to be mainstays in the wastewater treatment sector.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, North American Market for Water Treatment in the Power Industry, reveals that this market earned revenues of $580 million in 2006 and may reach $1.17 billion in 2013.

"Gross domestic product growth, rising energy demand, and an increasing requirement for a reliable water treatment system in a power plant are all driving the growth of the North American market for water treatment in the power industry," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Shilpa Tiku. "Although the cost of a water treatment system relative to the total investment of the plant is quite small, power plants need to maintain an excellent water treatment system, otherwise the plant would have to close, or water hardness could cause extensive damage to the plant prior to shutdown."

Currently, there is a rise in the construction of coal-fired power plants, which consume very large volumes of water for steam production and cooling. In addition, many plants older than 30 years must be retrofit with newer technologies. The water treatment technologies for new plants are likely to depend on the feed water source and impurities in it, while for the old plants, the technology itself is determined based on plant age.

Stringent discharge standards are, however, a crucial challenge for power plants as they necessitate the installation of expensive, advanced treatment technologies.

"While strict air emission norms led plants to install the flue gas desulphurization (FGD) process using wet scrubbing, this has caused wastewater discharge from the FGD process, which poses a challenge to the utilities," says Tiku. "Discharging FGD blow down water is not very easy as the constituents are very complex and the standards are tough to meet."

Thermal wastewater treatment process helps treat FGD blow down for recycling and reusing the wastewater. In the thermal process, water goes through various stages of treatment to emerge as almost pure water. The concentrate left behind by the thermal process contains contaminants that are much smaller in volume than earlier contaminants and can be treated by biodegradation, digestion, or other residual solids mitigation technologies that are available in the market. However, since it is a capital-intensive technology, utilities are hesitant to invest large amounts of money in it.

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