Sustainable and robust water system for the industrial zone of Antwerp

Antwerp (BE)

Background and state of the art

The Port of Antwerp is the leading European oil and chemical cluster in Europe and home to key industrial players in base and chemicals production. The companies are large water users, with water required for processing products, for cooling, as well as for steam production. Due to climate change, there is increasing salinization of ground waters in the port, as well as of the River Scheldt and the Albert Canal. In addition, the amount and quality of fresh surface water are declining. Therefore, large water users in this region are obliged to investigate alternative water sources. The largest water user in the port of Antwerp is BASF, and with the new ethylene cracker that will be built in the coming years at INEOS Antwerp – which will require an extra supply of 400 m³/h of high-quality demineralised water – urgent action is required. The area is, thus, facing increased problems of managing freshwater resources – for drinking water, industry and transport (inland shipping) – in terms of both water quantity and water quality. The Port of Antwerp Authority and its industrial partners need to develop a climate adaptation strategy that ensures that water quality and scarcity are factored into decisions that protect current operations and support business growth. This requires the development of integrated water-smart strategies for industrial processes demonstrating water recycling technologies and real-time smart monitoring and management systems.

Actions and expected results

To respond to the Port of Antwerp’s needs, three sub cases will be developed, focusing on the optimisation of water use, re-use and alternative water sources for cooling, steam production, process water and other uses. In all three sub-cases, industrial symbiosis between neighbouring companies will be envisaged, with BASF the focal point:

  • Sub-case 1. Near-zero discharge using closed-loop systems

  • Sub-case 2. Reduce fresh water use for demin production
  • Sub-case 3. Moving from a once-through to a wet closed cooling system

For BASF, the ambition is to have full large scale piloting cases that will demonstrate: 

  • significant progress towards near-zero discharge using closed-loop systems;

  • the internal re-use of cooling tower blowdown streams and;
  • the treatment and direct reuse of slightly polluted process water and dilution steam blowdown streams.

Digitalization of the water reuse scheme will include the design for full digital smart control and integration in the existing water grid for current operations.

Partners involved