Growing populations in the Asian and Pacific markets have propelled an increased demand for sustainable power solutions. This increase changes the global energy landscape which in turn changes the global water landscape due to the importance of water in operations that require turbines – as turbines are what run power generators for communities around the world. Quality water is essential to the power generation industry which relies on it to generate electricity. Thermal cycle plants such as those which generate energy from coal, petroleum, geothermal and nuclear among others require immense amounts of water for steam, cooling and condensing. The National Renewable Energy Lab reports that, in the U.S. alone, energy production from fossil fuels and nuclear energy requires 1.9 million gallons of water per day. Such demand for water is causing a major shift in water treatment for power generation from freshwater to wastewater and reuse.
A prominent example is the increasing flue gas desulpherization (FGD) and minimum liquid discharge (FGD) applications influencing Chinese and American markets. In an effort to satisify the demand for power generation across these markets while also meeting increasingly stringent environmental regulations, plant operators have been using special treatments to protect their assets and improve efficiency. Additionally, reducing energy usage, cost of chemicals and water footprints, while advancing reclamation methods for sources such as wastewater, have become key to the industry’s sustainable goals. Nuclear power plants face additional challenges in reducing waste both sustainably and within budgets. This water-energy nexus—the inextricable connection between water and energy in as much as one is needed to create the other—has become a powerful catalyst for industry innovation. High water quality is essential for protecting equipment and making sure it maximizes productivity in a reliable way. There are many effective water treatment technologies in today’s market, and among the most important is ion exchange (IX).
Ion exchange resins remove ionic impurities which produces a softened and partially or fully demineralized water. To achieve this near ultrapure quality requires a selection of specialized IX resins that can remove a narrow or wide range of contaminants tailored for specific fossil and nuclear power applications. The result is a softened, demineralized and polished make-up water, otherwise known as enabled FGD. IX resin technology is also the popular choice for condensate polishing applications designed to protect multi-million dollar boilers, steam generators, turbines and nuclear reactors. These specialized resins can also aid in the improvement of reactor water, fuel pool water, and discharged water. Also, increased environmental regulations have compelled fossil-fueled power plants to install flue gas desulpherization systems which require treatment of blowdown water prior to discharge. Properly specified ion exchange resins can help meet those regulation demands by removing trace contaminants, like arsenic and mercury.
The global scarcity of freshwater sources are driving a circular, more sustainable strategy where water is reduced, reused and reclaimed. This requires water technologies that can increase the number of cycles for which water is used by treating it and discharging it for other uses. These environmental pressures have made sustainability and water footprints key operational concerns. Power operators are being squeezed on both ends in terms of water sourcing and water discharge, and are pressured further by the widespread belief that investing in new water treatment technologies is too costly. However, for the power industry, not investing could prove more costly as interrupted supply chains—a sweeping challenge across many industries—demonstrate their adverse impact on continuous power generation.
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