South Wales Steel Manufacturer Conserves Water

GE Water & Process Technologies of Trevose, Pa., a unit of General Electric Co., has teamed with Orb Electrical Steels to help the Newport, South Wales-based company meet its environmental goals by achieving major water and cost savings, according to a Nov. 17 press release.

Orb Electrical Steels, a business within the Corus Group and a leading manufacturer of specialty steels for applications worldwide, has reduced its annual water usage by nearly 60 million gallons and its annual operating costs by approximately $500,000. The project played a key role in enabling Orb to support a corporate sustainability program that calls for reduced water consumption.

In operation for over a century, Orb Electrical Steels has traditionally used the town's water for cooling and cleaning at the steel-making plant. The water was used only once before being discharged into the nearby River Usk.

Seeking ways to maximize water usage and as part of the ongoing relationship, representatives from both companies meet monthly to investigate new, cost-saving ideas for the plant. From these discussions emerged a redesign of the physical layout of the water management system, which enabled re-use of the existing site water. Adding rainwater capture capabilities to the system supplemented the supply of available water.

Reducing costs was a major driver for this project. Blowdown from cooling towers was captured, blended with rainwater, and reused for rinsing steel, a far more cost-effective option than purchasing potable water for this purpose. By conserving water, the project also addressed the issue of water scarcity, which can be a factor due to occasional droughts in the area.

"Further projects are ongoing, and indications are that our site's water consumption will continue to be reduced," said Gareth Makarek, energy manager of Orb Electrical Steels. "The savings realized so far in operations have nearly doubled our return on investment for the improvements that have been implemented."

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