Wetsus at Aquatech 2023: Industrial & Corporate Water World

Tackling relevant water issues from industry is at the core of Wetsus functioning. Every other year a week dedicated to water technology is hosted in Amsterdam – Aquatech.  A great place to be to get a good picture of concurrent industrial challenges and to meet the actors that are seeking solutions. “It’s all about trying to attract a maximum of sectors and make them meet in person to find cross-sectorial solutions” says Leon Korving, Wetsus, co-organizer of the event.

At Wetsus, we are designing our research program based on company needs to ensure the relevance of our work. The fact we organize the Industrial & Corporate Water World is then particularly fitting since it is made for industries to present their water-related challenges and how they are currently tackling them. Thomas Prot, Wetsus, the other organizer states that “the uniqueness of the ICWW is that the presenters are industrial end-users and not technology providers which removes the marketing part and focuses more on the content”.

Moreover, each of the six sessions is moderated by a Wetsus young water professional. They had the chance to closely interact with industry representatives and train their directing skills, a role they took on as naturals. And for those that missed it, here’s a brief selected overview of the lessons learned in the sessions.

Partnership and Proactivity

No wastewater is alike. Industries big or small may have to deal with unconventional pollutants or otherwise challenging streams. This year’s sessions started painting a picture of the various solutions corporations found, and how they dealt with their challenges.

Take for instance Chemours – the international chemical company. The products they make, mean that they have to deal with new pollutants like GenX. A key takeaway, as explained by Marc Reijmers, Manager Health, Safety & Sustainability, is that it is important to act swiftly. “Find the available technology, do test, but do so on pilot scale.” Dare to take those steps. Get everyone together, build bridges across worlds and involve the crucial academics too.

Martijn Schouten, Investment Director at Vopak Ventures, agrees. “Be proactive. Don’t wait for changes but make changes.” That is how you move forward.

It is how Darling Ingredients recovered energy and resources from meat processing wastewaters too. Arnt Vlaardingerbroek, wastewater engineer “65% of our product is water full of organic carbons and nitrogens”. And finding out how to unlock them is not something you have to do on your own.”  Core developments come from universities too.

The Value of Wastewater

Many industries will agree that wastewater cannot be wasted as it is and that there even is untapped potential.

Westlake’s Ellen Tuinman continues on that theme in session two on brines. There is more to wastewater – a desired product. There still is value in it. Not everyone may initially agree, “but show the world, and show your investors that you can sell, reuse and that there is a market for ‘waste’.”

Manager Environmental Technologies at Clariant- producer of specialty chemicals, Jozef Kochan at times sees that local water availability and discharge regulations are the main drivers affecting the wastewater value and its management. “There is still room regarding the development of energy and resource efficient technologies and wastewater treatment concepts for wastewater reuse”.

For Carlsberg brewery, frontrunner in sharing solutions, has a similar struggle. They bet on a new facility to meet high recycling demands, Andreas Kirketerp, Total Water Manager, mentions. He sees that people tend to hesitate. “We don’t have to doubt. Reusing water is safe. And we should do more so.” But we do have a way to go. Despite the quality, reused water at Carlsberg has to be used differently and cannot be labeled drinking water.

The Far Reaches of the Water World

Even companies that you might not expect to be big on water, plead for its importance and find their partnerships.

Lewis Richards, CTO UK Water Industry at Microsoft: “More and more facets of the world are digital, running on the cloud. But we should not forget that there is a physical aspect to that, wherein water plays a vital role. It is a macro challenge for 2030.” That is why they seek partnerships at Aquatech and help to educate. “With large companies comes power asymmetry and trust issues, but it also makes you able to enable others to do good.”

The mining industry faces its past reputation as an added challenge. “As an extracting business, we are still not known for our circularity, Nicholas Gurieff, principal advisor at Rio Tinto says. ”While our image lags, our engineering has caught up. We too want access to previous ‘waste’ and are seeking to reuse more water. The required knowledge comes from other industries, be it academia or R&D. So, we need places like Wetsus to help us be more sustainable. To form that circular mindset.”

See you in 2025!

Thomas Prot: “Of course we want to thank everyone that helped out, and the 24 speakers from all over the world to make this event possible. If you don´t want to miss next time, mark your calendars for 11 to 14 March 2025. We hope to see you next time!”