Pioneering collaboration for industrial water circularity

In 2021, industrial users in the Asturias region of Spain accounted for 29.5% of all freshwater consumption (295.3 hm3) while also producing 135.3 hm3 of wastewater; a mere 3% of this wastewater was recycled.

With climate change increasing both the demand for freshwater and water scarcity, the Asturias region identified that wastewater recycling for industrial users like DuPont could offer an efficient and sustainable solution. As part of its efforts to transition to a green economy, the government of Asturias incorporated into the principality’s 2021 budgets more than €106 million to finance various projects under the European Recovery Fund Next Generation EU, including investments in water sanitation, water purification and promoting the circular economy.

DuPont Asturias was one of the first companies to embrace the local government’s initiative and proactively participated in several committees to help define regional industry’s specific needs. In collaboration with DuPont, the Asturias government commissioned a three-month pilot project to use advanced water treatment technologies to further process wastewater effluent so it could be reused as makeup water for industrial purposes. In addition to supplying ultrafiltration technology, the team at the DuPont Asturias site provided technical consultancy, using their knowledge and expertise to create a modular and scalable wastewater recycling solution that could be replicated in other parts of Spain and across Europe.

Starting in September 2022, the three-month pilot began at the Villaperez wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) on the outskirts of the city of Oviedo in Asturias. As the largest such facility in the region, it has annual treatment volumes exceeding 36 hm3. The pilot was designed with capacity to treat an hourly flow of 11.2 m3 at a cost of €169,000. This tertiary treatment process succeeded in consistently supplying reclaimed water for use as makeup water in industrial cooling towers and evaporative condensers, demonstrating how ultrafiltration technology can be harnessed as part of an efficient solution to achieve water circularity.

The planned full-scale water reuse station will offer 6 hm3 of annual capacity. Similar in volume to the maximum capacity of the nearby Los Alfilorios reservoir, the first stage of the plant will serve the main industrial areas of Oviedo and has the potential to supply 40% of the total annual industrial demand (15 hm3) for potable water. Additional phases, scheduled for completion by 2027, are expected to expand coverage to meet 100% of industrial demand in the neighbouring cities of Gijón and Avilés.

As Nieves Roqueñi, Asturias Minister for Ecological Transition, Industry and Economic Development, emphasised, ‘In Asturias, water reuse is of great importance. We must try to look for alternative resources. The Villapérez WWTP provides water for the industry in order to avoid direct water consumption’. Roqueñí encouraged the partners to continue working in research, development and innovation, pointing out that ‘the strength of all of us moves the economy, the environment and society’.

With the increased prevalence of drought conditions, municipalities are seeking innovative solutions to retain the confidence of businesses and attract further development. This pioneering project illustrates how easily local governments can embrace water circularity to improve the resiliency of their water supplies. Working together with local government, DuPont’s collective efforts have produced a replicable model that will not only deliver significant benefits to Asturias but will also support municipalities across Spain and further afield that face similar challenges.

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hm3 annual wastewater treatment volume at the Villaperez plant

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