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Tue 18 Aug 2009 04:00 AM

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Clean thinking

The Middle East's petrochemical industry will be demanding $534 million worth of waste water treatment equipment by 2011, up from $149 million since 2008. Petrochemicals Middle East meets the leading players servicing that growing need.

Clean thinking
C&G Depurazione Industriale’s Small V-NT 3500 model which allows the treatment of 3500l/day of industrial wastewater.
Clean thinking
Clean thinking
Vivek Gautam, senior research analyst, Frost & Sullivan.
Clean thinking

The Middle East's petrochemical industry will be demanding $534 million worth of waste water treatment equipment by 2011, up from $149 million since 2008. Petrochemicals Middle East meets the leading players servicing that growing need.

Nowhere is water a more precious commodity than here in the Middle East. Though much is frittered away on luxurious landscaped hotel gardens, it remains a cornerstone of the petrochemicals industry, and the downstream business is demanding ever-more as bigger capacities come on stream.

The development of techniques to treat used water and, re-use this vital commodity are filtering into the petrochemical sector as the industry does its best to conserve this critical resource, whilst simultaneously limiting its environmental impact.

There is no escaping the fact that the petrochemical business is a massive consumer of water, and its presence is necessary through almost all of the different production processes. It is deployed as a medium in cooling systems, for production boiler feeds and for the more mundane, but necessary domestic purposes.

"In the last few years, the petrochemical industry in the Middle East has attracted huge investments. In fact, the sector could be considered as a cornerstone of economic diversification in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries," says Vivek Gautam, senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan's environmental and building technologies practice -  South Asia and Middle East. "This steady and healthy flow of investments in petrochemical industry has ensured that there is a strong demand for water and wastewater treatment equipments from the industry," he adds.

Wastewater production strongly depends on the process configuration. For a refinery with cooling water recycle a production of approximate 3.5 - 5 cubic metres per tonne of processed crude can be taken. With refineries in the Middle East regularly processing upwards of 600 000 barrels of crude each day, that's a lot of water. The uncontrolled discharge of refinery effluent is no longer possible, so the wastewater treatment requirement in the region is collosal.


Petrochemical and refinery wastewater treatment generally requires a combination of treatment methods to bring down the level of organics within acceptable limits before it can be discharged. A typical wastewater treatment scheme for a petrochemical plant or refinery is shown down in Figure 1.

"Our company is specialised in the design and manufacture of vacuum evaporators which allow the concentration of exhausted emulsified oils, the recycling of solvents, the recycling of glycols, the compartmentalisation of the organic components in the water, and the recovery of the water present," explains Dr. Georgina Porro, export manager at C&G Depurazione Industriale.


Refinery and petrochemical sites represent some of the most challenging water treatment environments. High heat fluxes, difficult water conditions and intense pressures on capital and consumable budgets require water treatment programs to operate under maximum stress.

The goal is to minimise operating costs and maximise energy efficiency, whilst preventing operational problems and maintaining production rates.

"From our company's point of view the volume of water the petrochemical industry can create is a problem. The use of our vacuum evaporators is possible when we talk about discharge up to about 45 m3/day,  but the volumes involved when we talk about the petrochemical industry are generally much larger," says Dr Porro.

Poor operational control and high heat fluxes in a process heat exchanger in one petrochemical plant presented serious operational challenges. The temperature difference across the exchanger was routinely 4-10˚C. Loss of exchanger efficiency due to calcium phosphate (CaPO4) deposition was persistent and chemical cleaning routine.The critical exchanger could not be removed from service for cleaning without slowing production. Again, this impacted significantly the energy efficiency of the entire production process. The unit was required to purchase hydrogen it would ordinarily have made itself at a cost of US$2200/day during exchanger cleaning.

The effluent discharge standards may vary from country to country but these are broadly defined by Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook, 1998 by the World  Bank.The applicable limits are detailed in Figure 2. Looking ahead, the legislations are only expected to became even stricter.


A new report by Frost & Sullivan shows the total water and wastewater treatment equipment market for the petrochemicals industry in Europe and the Middle East was estimated at US$390 million in 2004. Spurred by growing demand from the Middle East and certain parts of Europe, the overall market is forecast to be worth US$534 million by 2011.

According to the Frost & Sullivan's report: "Analysis of GCC Water and Wastewater Treatment Equipment Market" the GCC equipment market for Petrochemical industry is pegged at $149.0 million in the year 2008," says Gautam. "Taking Iran also into consideration, the market size is estimated at $192 million," he adds.

"Demand of interest from the Middle East is increasing as environmental laws become much stricter regarding discharge of wastewater, and the controls become more frequent," says Dr Porro.

"Demand is increasing through the necessity of resolving problems they have, although there is a reluctance to pay for the quality they demand," she adds.

Compliance with environment-friendly legislations such as the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) is set to drive market development in Europe (as well as the expanding petrochemicals base) is set to boost demand for water and wastewater treatment equipment in the Middle East. Uptake levels are also likely to be driven by the rising costs of sourcing water and disposing effluents and the public pressure to control related environmental and health hazards issues.

Motivated by the stricter regulatory regimes governing effluent discharge and wastewater treatment, Europe currently accounts for nearly 50.3% of total market revenues. Enhanced demand in the newer markets of Benelux, Spain and Italy, together with the need for replacement and upgrades in more mature markets such as Germany, have also supported market growth in Europe.

Driven by a fast expanding petrochemical industry and the associated rise in demand for water and wastewater treatment equipment, the Middle East is expected to overtake Europe as the larger regional revenue contributor to the industry over the long term, mainly in the GCC and Iran.

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