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Recycling water to produce process water from condensate Sustainability Innovation Iv-Water Watersystemen

Choreographer of the ‘waterballet’

For a number of years now, Iv-Water has had substantial ambitions in the ‘industrial water’ market. This is why, among others, we have entered into a partnership with Industrielinqs”, says Paul Kloet, Head of Department at Iv-Water. “On behalf of this partnership, David van Baarle, Chief Editor of Utilities, wrote an article for the trade magazine Utilities about the water recycling project at FrieslandCampina. This project, to which  Iv-Water has contributed, is a good example of how ‘circular thinking’ offers opportunities, not only for achieving ambitions in sustainability but also where economic motives are concerned. In short: enough reason to also publish this article in this edition of Ivormatie.”

In recent years, the FrieslandCampina site in Borculo has grown considerably. However, the company aspires to protect the environment and limit its water footprint. Experts from the company figured out that the discharged condensate could be relatively easily extracted from the steam installations and recycled into process water. 

FrieslandCampina’s growth seems unstoppable. The company was already one of the largest dairy co-operatives in the world, but after the milk quota was abolished in 2015, some of the member dairy farmers, through the co-operative of the same name as the owners of FrieslandCampina, went on to produce much more milk. 

At the same time, the demand for infant nutrition in the Netherlands increased. The production location of the co-operative in Borculo has therefore expanded considerably in recent years. For example, the new baby powder production site was put into production in 2015 and the company has plans for a new production location for the mixing and packaging of milk powder. A down-side to the success of the company is that the local water footprint has increased considerably. The site in Borculo uses water for drying the raw material whey into milk powder and a lot of water is used for the cleaning of equipment. In the meantime, water intake has become so great that it is strategically and socially desirable to limit this. To date, part of the return condensate is discharged to surface water. Gradually, the idea arose to reprocess this water into process water. Senior Project Manager, Sjoerd Hofstee of FrieslandCampina: “FrieslandCampina makes considerable investments in adapting its processes to be more sustainable. In terms of energy, we use here in Borculo, among other things, pyrolysis oil and biogas for steam generation. For water usage, our company-wide ambition is to use the same amount or less water per tonne of product as in 2010. More specifically, we want to save around three hundred thousand cubic metres of water per year at the production location in Borculo.” 


Sjoerd: “Here in Borculo, we extract fresh water from the subsurface flow and obtain drinking water from Vitens. However, there are limits to this. If we continue to grow in Borculo, we will reach the maximum permitted annual quantity of extracted groundwater. So, we needed to search for alternative water supply. Currently, we are using a large amount of water for steam production, which after releasing its heat, condenses and is returned. By processing this returned water, most of the condensate can be used again in the process. Despite the organic contaminants, the quality of this water is so good that with a limited number of purification steps we can again achieve water that is equal to that of drinking quality. We, therefore, decided to investigate whether we could turn this into a business case. Of course, we always critically consider the balance between economy and ecology, but from a strategic point of view, we calculate with lower margins and longer return on investment periods for sustainability projects.” For the engineering, Sjoerd approached Iv-Groep: “The conductivity of the return water was the starting point for our search into the best technology for producing process water. We knew what the quality of the water was to start with, and the quality required for our processes. In our opinion, we needed a black box to get from quality A to quality B. The most complex part of this was the integration of a new installation into a site under development. We were therefore mainly looking for an engineering company that could lead the process from start to finish. Many of the well-known engineering companies in the water world are developing their own water purification technologies and concepts. The risky part of this is that these companies may unfoundedly opt for using their own technology. On the contrary, we wanted to work with a party that could find the best solution for our specific demand in a technology-independent way, could integrate this technically into the existing process and supervise the tendering and construction process. Iv-Water met these requirements.”

Saving three hundred thousand cubic metres of water

Ronny Faasen, Project Manager at Iv-Water is responsible for this innovative water recycling project. “We released FrieslandCampina’s request into the market and assessed the submissions on a number of quality criteria, whereby price was just as important”, said Ronny. “As stated, FrieslandCampina uses flexible financial key figures for sustainability initiatives, but a good balance between price and quality had to be established. This didn’t mean saving money on technology, but instead, save money by riding alongside a number of other projects that were running at the same time.” 

Ultimately, Iv-Water, in consultation with FrieslandCampina, opted for the submission of  RWB Water. RWB’s suggestion was to first pass the water through an organic sludge on a carrier system, which will remove the first batch of organic contaminants. The remaining organic contaminants are then captured by a microfiltration system with ceramic membranes. Ceramic membranes are easier to clean chemically (without degrading their effect) than the polymer variants, and they also have a longer lifespan than polymer membranes. Finally, a reverse osmosis step follows, which removes salts and therefore lowers the conductivity. The water is now of the desired quality and is subsequently supplied to FrieslandCampina’s piping system. 

Clever combination

Ronny: “Iv-Water immediately began with the integration of a treatment plant on the FrieslandCampina site. For example, the return water pipeline had to be tapped and other pipelines also laid or diverted. As part of our EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) role, we also supervise all the civil engineering for the installation, such as foundations and structures. Another good example of where sustainability and cost savings go together is the fact that we were able to reuse a building, which was released from another project, as new accommodation for the microfiltration system.” The reverse osmosis installation is situated in another building that FrieslandCampina previously constructed for similar installations. “This multifunctional use of space again reduces project costs”, says Ronny. Iv-Water also creatively adapted the project planning. Ronny: “We were able to ride alongside another, larger project that was in progress at approximately the same time. This allowed us to blend our work activities in such a way that the daily work of FrieslandCampina experienced as little inconvenience as possible. The planning of the larger project was leading for planning time slots for placing installations and connecting or integrating installations into the existing production environment.”

The purification system is now in operation. Ronny: “In March we were able to transfer the installation to the operators of FrieslandCampina, with which we successfully completed a project of two years from the outset. These two years were from the initial idea to the handover. The actual construction time was much shorter. The majority of the installations were supplied as complete modules so that only the connections had to be performed on-site. And of course, adapting the piping required quite some time and knowledge of engineering.” The water is still being used in applications whereby it doesn’t come into direct contact with the product, such as the production of steam, cooling water for the cooling towers and for the iced water generator. But Sjoerd doesn’t exclude the possibility that in the long term, other processes may also use this water. “The quality of the water is the same as that of drinking water”, says Sjoerd. “I can imagine that in the long term, this water can be used more widely. The treatment plant is currently constructed at a capacity of fifty cubic metres of water per hour, but part of the return water is still being discharged. We could, therefore, in the long term, expand further with a second installation. There is enough space and because a proportion of the new pipes are already oversized, a second installation can easily be integrated. We have already taken a considerable step in reducing the water footprint, but more can still be done.” 

Would you like to know more about this project? Paul will be pleased to share ideas with you about this matter. Contact him via 088 943 3900 or send an email.
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