The Institute of Textile Research and Industrial Cooperation (INTEXTER) with the collaboration of the Motion Control and Industrial Applications (MCIA UPC) research centre are leading ELDE, a project to develop new technologies for reusing industrial water in the paper, chemistry and tanning industries. For three years, UPC researchers will apply new electrochemical wastewater treatment techniques, selecting the most suitable technology for each of the three sectors. In the words of the project coordinator, M. Carmen Gutiérrez from INTEXTER, "one of the main aims is to construct a larger pilot plant for the paper industry and another smaller, more versatile pilot plant that can treat wastewater from various industrial sectors. We are not starting from scratch, because we have gained knowledge from other projects that are already functioning satisfactorily in the textile dye industry ".
The director of the MCIA group, Luis Romeral, considers that "the challenge is very exciting because we can use highly efficient power electronic systems and renewable energies to treat water, and contribute our knowledge and expertise to promote the circular economy in the water sector ".
The ELDE project focuses on the use of electrochemical techniques to treat and reuse industrial wastewater, using electricity and generating chemical reagents. These techniques are called in situ electro-oxidation, oxidation with electrogenerated compounds, electrocoagulation and electrodialysis. Effluents from the paper, chemistry and tanning industry are difficult to treat using standard methods due to the high organic load, high salinity and presence of non-biodegradable organic compounds.
Therefore, ELDE will select the most suitable effluents for electrochemical treatment and will focus on setting up two pilot plants based on these technologies, to achieve a significant reduction in water pollution. In addition, work will be done to reduce the energy consumption associated with the selected technologies. In fact, a new source of highly efficient renewable energy will be developed to reduce the energy consumption associated with electrochemical treatment techniques. ELDE will also assess the reuse of treated effluents, study the impact of treatment processes in each sector and determine environmental, technical and economic feasibility.
Through the Environmental Engineering (ENMA) research group, INTEXTER is a leader in the research and application of electrochemical treatment technologies. Some companies already successfully use its ECUVAL system, which can treat and reuse wastewater with a high amount of colouring from textile dyes. This saves a large amount of water and salts. The MCIA group has considerable experience in industrial research and development projects relating to the application of new technologies to generate energy savings, through electronics and the use of renewable energies.
The Catalan water sector has a turnover of around 4.48 billion euros a year and represents 2.2% of Catalan GDP. Water is a vital element for certain industrial sectors, which is why it is vital to manage its use efficiently from an economic and environmental perspective.
The ELDE project (Electrochemical treatment of industrial wastewater: technical, environmental and economic feasibility) has been jointly funded by the ‘RIS3CAT Community of Water’ promoted by the Government of Catalonia through ACCIÓ and by the European Union with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) The project has a budget of 1.75 million euros. Other participants include the technology centres Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC) and Eurecat-CTM, and the SMEs Waterlogies, CIM Aigua, Lavola and Pere Valls.