As water experts, DuPont Water Solutions is always looking for new and better ways to help customers around the world purify, conserve and reuse water

Despite global shortages of freshwater, DuPont’s team is optimistic about the water future. They see a clear path to a future where all of the 7.8 billion people on this planet have access to safe, clean drinking water every day. A future where industry has the necessary water to make the products on which humanity relies – increasing industrial output through water reuse and conservation and raw material recovery.
A future where the circular nature of water is optimized and not a drop is wasted.

They call this a Water-Optimized World.

And one of the things that will enable this vision to become a reality is the adoption of information technology and artificial intelligence into our water treatment and distribution systems. Such systems will revolutionize how our water infrastructure is monitored and managed in order to increase available water supply and make the treatment of water more sustainable.

For example, one of the easiest ways to increase available water supplies is to prevent leakage of treated water in distribution systems.  Up to 50 percent of water is lost in distribution systems and our infrastructure is aging each year. But what if smarter sensors and smarter networks could be used to understand and prevent the loss of water within the system?

In terms of water quality, real-time contaminant monitors have made information that used to required days of complex analytical lab analysis available instantly. Much of water and wastewater treatment has historically been an artform held in the brains of experienced long-time operators; however, with increased data, remote monitoring, automated controls, and standardization, the experience level and learning time required for plant operations can be significantly reduced.

DuPont’s Water Solutions team is using an expansive innovation approach to unleash the opportunity to optimize water systems around the world—and thus helping their customers run their plants more efficiently, lowering their chemical and water consumption, and reducing the carbon impact of safe water.

DuPont’s membranes are often used in large installations for purposes like desalination or purification. Traditionally, the maintenance and operations of these membranes have required operators to monitor the conditions of the filters, water quantity and chemical requirements. In the past, if one module, out of many, experienced an outage or required maintenance, operators would need to stop the full system and check each membrane individually.

What if sensors and IoT could be integrated into those membranes and systems to give operators better situational awareness? To not only respond to maintenance needs, but also to provide data on system performance that can inform decisions that might reduce water and chemical consumption? Or reduce downtime? Or maximize energy efficiency?

Users would not only improve the sustainability of their operations, but also the cost of operations – and thus the cost of water.

Sensors are just one way the digital transformation is benefiting the water sector. In another example, DuPont is also transforming the way it helps its customers with Data Normalization.

For a proper system performance assessment and optimization, Ultrafiltration (UF) and Reverse Osmosis (RO) operating data normalization is vital in all systems which treat feed water with variable salinity and/or temperature. After more than two decades of its popular excel-based data normalization tool, DuPont has launched FT-Norm PRO, a digital tool to allow plant operators to normalize their data for effective monitoring of UF and RO systems. This tool helps plant operators exploring how variations in feedwater temperature, salinity, or pump pressure can influence the apparent productivity and rejection of a membrane system, making it less obvious when a real change in membrane performance takes place.

In another example, DuPont is also using digital visualization tools to help customers understand and mitigate the effects of biofouling. Biofouling in reverse osmosis (RO) elements occurs when bacteria settle in an element’s feed channel and produce a biofilm. The biofilm evolution causes an exponential increase in the feed-concentrate pressure drop (dP) in the RO system resulting in higher energy consumption and more frequent cleanings. Additionally, if the dP becomes too high, the elements are at risk of irreversible mechanical damage.

DuPont’s DIRECTOR™ Biofilm Visualization Tool helps RO users to understand fouling characteristics of compromised RO systems. With this knowledge, appropriate system maintenance protocols can be established for improved system on-stream time and reliability. Optimizing maintenance discipline of systems experiencing biofouling can serve to improve energy savings by approximately 15 percent and reduce loss of productivity due to down time and low recovery operation by 60 percent.

By using digital solutions to mitigate its customers biggest challenges, DuPont is unlocking numerous sustainability benefits. As such, its customers are asking for more data and digital tools, including better instrumentation, data for accurate reporting, improved discharge reporting, and ability to model systems.

Les auteurs
Céline Tarraube
Conseillère digitalisation et innovation auprès de la FEDIL