Water is used in most process industries for a wide range of applications. Industrial processes and systems using water are today being subjected to increasingly stringent environmental regulations relating to the discharge of effluents and there is a growing demand for fresh water. The changes taking place and the pace of these changes have increased the need for improved water management and wastewater minimisation. The adoption of water minimisation techniques can effectively reduce overall fresh water demand in water-using processes and subsequently reduce the amount of effluent generated, with the result of reducing both the costs incurred in the acquisition of fresh water and the costs involved in the treatment of effluent streams.
Important methodologies that have been applied to the minimisation of water use and effluent generation have included:
• The minimisation of water consumption by the efficient management and control of process operations.
• The optimisation of material and energy balances of processes by the application of advanced optimisation strategies aiming at waste reduction.
• The integration of optimisation and production planning techniques in conjunction with real-time plant measurements and control for product quality and minimisation of losses.
• The growing use of enhanced intelligent support to operators by the application of knowledge-based decision-making procedures to select those options that best protect the environment.
• The use of process integration techniques based on pinch analysis.
In the food processing industry, with its own unique and specific features, it is considered advisable to progress from the simplest measures - such as good housekeeping based on efficient management, control and maintenance - to more advanced methodologies.
Food processing is not, in many cases, a continuous process running 7 days a week for the whole year, but one that is intermittent and highly dependent on the availability of the feed stock. Typical campaign productions occur in sugar, fruit juice or cereal processing plants. On the other hand, breweries are in operation on a continuous basis, but are batch processed. These features influence the investment in processing plant and technologies adopted, including those involving water and waste minimisation and processing.
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