Key Industrial Trends

Nijhuis keynote presentation at BlueTech Forum

In a keynote presentation at BlueTech Forum, which took place in Dublin, Ireland on 6-7 June 2017, Nijhuis delivered a keynote address on Key Industrial Market Trends, taking delegates on a global tour of innovations addressing the food-water nexus, circular economy, water scarcity and business models needed to create and deliver projects.

BlueTech Chief Executive Paul O’Callaghan took time ahead of the event to find out more about the perspective of CEO Menno Holterman of Nijhuis Industries on water reuse and sustainable water management.

As Chief Executive Officer of Nijhuis Industries and founder of Naesta, Menno Holterman has the opportunity to experience water challenges across the globe. Nijhuis Industries, founded in 1904 and headquartered in the Netherlands, provides consultancy, design & build, maintenance and operational services for industrial and municipal wastewater projects on every continent.

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Key Industrial Trends

Water Challenges

“Water challenges around the world are driven by many things,” says Menno Holterman, “but especially water scarcity, a lack of groundwater and aquifers drying up. I believe industry is making a great deal of progress, which is what we see in a lot of our projects around the world. “We see clients now actively asking for integrated solutions, including finance and operations & maintenance, which is a seismic shift. We also see a lot of industries, including those that have been invited to participate in BlueTech Forum, making water reuse, for example, mandatory.

Industrial Reuse

“Nijhuis is working with big multinational corporations. Until about two years ago, water reuse was always requested, but only implemented in water scarce areas, because of the high cost and not having a business case to pay back the investment. Now we see that all the large corporations are making reuse mandatory not only on greenfield projects, but on a lot of brownfield projects and upgrades and expansions of existing plants.”

Corporate barriers

Holterman says he sees Nijhuis Industries’ key global accounts taking responsibility and starting to implement these kinds of measures. However, currently, the recycled water is only used for non-core processes and non-product water.

“It’s only a matter of time before some clients start reuse across production,” he says, “especially in areas of water scarcity. There are still a lot of brands that do not want the product water to be originated from treated effluent, so they want to discharge the water into a river and pick up the water hundreds of meters downstream, take it in, treat it and use it as product water. But to take it directly from the effluent treatment plant back into the process or mix it with water originated from treated effluent is a no-go area, especially in the food, pharma and cosmetics industry, for mostly psychological and marketing reasons.”

Holterman believes the influence of other industries will ultimately crossover to the food and beverage industry, especially if you are operating in an area like Africa, India, China or Mexico where water scarcity is having a huge impact. The only options may be to reduce production capacity, close down or relocate the facility or use the water in a different way.

Water security

He explains, “Most investment in new plants is made with a financial horizon of 20-25 years, so you have to make sure you secure sufficient water to operate a plant, secure their license to operate and meet their growing production requirements. It’s not always easy, because you have to expend more energy in order to recover the water. So in terms of the water-energy nexus, it’s necessary to identify the tipping point between investing in additional water capacity versus the amount of energy you have to expend.

“I’m back from a trip to China where I’ve been visiting cities surrounding Beijing that are responsible for mass food production and they are running out of water. They don’t have desalination capacity installed and they need alternative sources of water to feed hundreds-of-millions of people.

“The saltwater intrusion into the aquifers is a major issue – up to 40-50km from the coastline – and I had meetings with mayors of cities of 800k to 1.2m inhabitants and the cities are growing. I visited one city where they have an additional 100,000 people arriving each quarter and they are looking into alternatives, not only by putting desal capacity next to a municipal WTP, but also water reuse.”

Local initiatives

At the other end of the scale, Holterman describes a ‘pee and poo collection’ project that Nijhuis has initiated in Ghana with some local NGOs. Anaerobic digestion is used to convert biosolids into gas and a new business model has been developed in the process.

“So the work that was done by night-soil collectors in nineteenth century England, Ireland and the Netherlands is going to be done in a more hygienic, efficient way in modern-day Ghana,” he explains. “Once collected and transported to the plant, the faeces are converted into cooking gas, which can be purchased and used on domestic stoves.

“We are taking what is done on large-scale municipal plants, and scaling for use in small-to-medium cities with 30,000-100,000 inhabitants – providing them with a business model and securing affordable solutions for sanitation, clean water, energy and jobs.”

Waste recycling

Another region of interest for Nijhuis is Argentina, where the Government is closing landfill sites to drive waste recycling.

Holterman says, “The waste is already collected by the municipalities so one solution might be for them to bring it to our facility which we would operate with the municipality. We would sort the waste and create value for our client.

“There is a good market in Latin America for recycled materials – plastics, aluminum, steel, glass. We would concentrate the organic waste stream to create energy by anaerobic digestion, creating power through a combined heat & power (CHP) system.

“The leftovers would be co-digested and that co-digestate converted into fertilizer and clean water. The last undigestable part can be used by the concrete and cement industry as part of bricks and paving. Some 85% of the waste is going to be reused and 15% landfilled or incinerated elsewhere.”

Internet of things

The internet of things, this sensor technology is going to help us tremendously and we are already going to the next stage in developing software which will help us to predict the behavior of the plant if the characteristics of the water are changing. With Nijhuis i-MONITORING solutions in place we support customers around the globe in operating and maintaining their plants against the lowest possible total cost of ownership.

“This data is also a very valuable resource to verify the design criteria of the extensive range of Nijhuis technologies and provide critical input to our R&D, design and process engineering teams to design and build even more reliable and cost-effective solutions.