Although water is the world’s most precious commodity, an astounding amount of it is wasted by industries. Fortunately, water treatment and recovery has become the focus of several technology companies, including GE, which recently demonstrated a water treatment technology that virtually eliminates losses at bottling plants and other water-related operations. The pilot study of GE’s AquaSel, a non-thermal brine concentrator technology, took place at the plant of a leading beverage company in Asia. GE says costs were greatly reduced and there was almost no liquid discharge.
The AquaSel system used in the pilot study had a capacity of 36,000 gallons per day (136,270 L/day). During a trial run of 1,000 hours, the bottler that hosted the study succeeded in capturing and converting 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million liters) into water suitable for reuse with a quality equivalent to that of the water coming into the plant.
This represents a recovery rate of 99 percent, while current methods normally recover between 75 and 85 percent of the water supplied to their treatment room. The rest is lost as waste stream. Besides saving water, the AquaSel system also increases energy efficiency because it can remove impurities at room temperature.
The research that led to the system was based on GE’s technological expertise in desalination and zero liquid discharge technologies. It combines desalination and brine concentration units to process water rejected from existing reverse osmosis systems. Along with a clean water stream, AquaSel also produces a dry salt cake for disposal.
The resulting filtrate water can be looped back to the front of the ingredient water system because the level of dissolved solids is at or below the level of raw water. Besides the food and beverage industry, GE says AquaSel could be used for waste management as well as water supply and processing operations.
GE said that if all bottling plants around the world started using its system, the global leading bottlers would be saving 30 million gallons (113.5 million liters) per day. “GE’s NTBC [non-thermal brine concentrator] technology can turn billions of gallons of lost water into clean, usable water by virtually eliminating the wastewater streams in a variety of industrial and municipal treatment processes,” said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO for GE Power & Water.