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Avaio (US) constructs desalination plant at Port of Antwerp

The Port of Antwerp (Flanders) is welcoming another newcomer. In a bid to help the chemical sector save millions of liters of drinking water, New York-based investment firm Avaio is planning to build a desalination plant at the port, which is home to the world’s second-largest integrated petrochemical cluster. To do so, Avaio is teaming up with American engineering company Aecom. This ‘water factory’ will convert brackish water into process water, to be used as coolant in industrial production.

Turning seawater into … process water

As the world’s water comes under more pressure, the demand for desalination plants is growing. Flanders-based chemical and pharmaceutical companies, which rely on water as a crucial element of their production processes, are looking into ways to reduce their water consumption, leading to much interest in Avaio’s desalination system.

The installation will have an initial capacity of 500,000 liters per hour. According to the American investors, this corresponds to the annual consumption of 40,000 families of four people. The desalinated process water will contain five times less salt than drinking water, making it more suitable for chemical installations.

Everyone wants in on the action

The new factory will be located at the Port of Antwerp (Flanders) on the site of German chemical company Covestro. The plant will also supply the neighboring site of chemical giant Evonik via a pipeline. Avaio and Aecom have already sealed contacts with other chemical companies in the port.

For Aecom, which has worldwide experience in designing desalination plants, the project in Flanders is still unique.

The technology is proven, but this is the first time that we are applying our system for industrial use on this scale. We experience a great willingness in the Antwerp chemical industry to contribute to the objective.

Friso van Bijnen
director of Aecom

The future is circular

Avaio and Aecom will start applying for permits for the desalination plant in 2021. Construction is set to begin in mid-2022 and the plant should be operational in 2024. “The investment fits in perfectly with our ambition to save more water,” says Frank Beckx, top executive at Belgian chemicals sector federation essenscia, which is supervising the project. “With 50 chemical and pharmaceutical companies, we will work out a concrete action plan by September 2021.” The intention is to run the plant on green electricity. At a later stage, the plant will be able to reuse purified wastewater, creating an industrial water cycle.

More info

Reported by
newspaper De Tijd
14 December 2020

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