Desalinated dock water saves tens of millions of cubic metres of drinking water in the port of Antwerp

Posted on 9 Dec 2020

Companies that need water for their production processes in the port of Antwerp rely on drinking water for this purpose. A new project in the port provides for the construction of an installation that will desalinate the brackish water from the docks to use this process water at the chemical companies Covestro and Evonik.


If everything goes according to plan, construction of the desalination plant will start in mid-2022. Start-up is planned for 2024. The trend to produce with less soil and drinking water is not new. "Chemical and pharmaceutical companies have already significantly reduced the consumption of drinking water and groundwater over the past ten years, with an efficiency increase of no less than 35%", says Frank Beckx of the sector federation for chemistry and life sciences essenscia. 


The American investor Avaio and engineering group Aecom joined forces to set up the installation project. Chemical companies Covestro and Evonik will be the first customers, but are also partners in this project. The brackish water from the docks will be pressed through a membrane to extract the salt and other minerals from the dock water. The remaining water is the process water, a solution for discharging the salt into the Scheldt is still being worked on. Evonik will use the process water to cool the installations, dilute products and even produce steam. 

Solution with and by the sector 

It is the sector itself that comes up with an alternative to drinking water. "In this way, in times of increasing drought, we put less pressure on the supply of drinking water to the population. Moreover, it is the sector itself that provides the solution, at no cost to the public drinking water company," said Ivan Pilgrims of Evonik. Upon start-up, the desalination plant will be able to convert 500,000 litres of brackish water per hour into process water. That is the equivalent of the annual drinking water consumption of 40,000 four-person households.  


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