Cost-Effective Carbon Reduction In Wastewater Treatment

By Lu Shuping 16 March, 2017

Xylem's Lu makes a case for cutting emissions in China's wastewater treatment industry & shares two ways forward

Upgrading equipment & new energy recovery tech can cut carbon emissions in China by 15.7mt (39% of 2015 levels)
For wider adoption, life-cycle costs should be used; also emission targets & a carbon audit process are needed
Globally, USD40bn can be saved with lower energy costs

xylem report cover (2)Energy conservation and emission reduction is a high-priority global issue. Just last year, 188 countries committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the groundbreaking Paris Agreement. Although China’s wastewater treatment industry represents only a small slice of the total global carbon emissions reduction target, it is a high energy consumption industry that is growing rapidly, thus making it ripe for attractive energy savings opportunities.
This was the focus of the recently released joint report by Xylem Inc., a global water technology leader, and Renmin University of China entitled “Research on Carbon Emission Reduction Pathways and Potential of the China’s Wastewater Treatment Industry“.
The report concluded that China’s wastewater treatment industry has the potential to reduce direct and indirect CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions by 15.7 million tonnes through the adoption of currently available advanced technologies. This represents a decrease of 39% versus emissions produced in the sector in 2015.
The findings are based on primary data collected on baseline energy consumption in five major regions of China, and primary data collected on the range of energy efficiency gains from upgrades to high-efficiency wastewater treatment technologies, such as variable speed pumping, high-efficiency aeration, and advanced sludge management.

China’s wastewater treatment industry has the potential to cut CO2e emissions by 15.7 mn tonnes
(equivalent to 39% of 2015 levels)

Xylem Regional Carbon Emissions (4)
The findings identify two main sources for emissions reduction in China’s wastewater treatment industry:

  • Upgrading existing electromechanical equipment to high-efficiency equipment could reduce indirect CO2e emissions by up to 5.1 million tonnes. From collection to treatment to disposal of wastewater – including wastewater pumping, plug and flow mixing, aeration, and sludge treatment – there is a wide range of high-efficiency technologies that have the potential to deliver more than 5 million tonnes in CO2e emissions savings.
  • Implementing new energy recovery technologies could reduce direct and indirect CO2e emissions by up to 10.6 million tonnes. The implementation of energy recovery technologies can result in a reduction of more than 7 million tonnes of direct CO2e emissions through the advanced treatment of wastewater sludge. In addition, 3.5 million tonnes of indirect CO2e emissions can be abated when the energy recovered through this advanced treatment is, in turn, used to power existing electromechanical equipment.

Realistic Achievable Potential (5)
While these findings represent compelling opportunities to reduce direct and indirect carbon emissions, the industry needs to take steps to encourage widespread adoption of these approaches.

The industry needs to adopt a life-cycle cost approach & establish a  standardised carbon audit process

First, it is imperative that investment and construction decisions be made on the basis of life-cycle cost, and not simply on the lowest bid price. While these solutions may require a higher initial capital investment, those with the lowest total life-cycle cost make better financial sense, and often result in the lowest energy consumption and indirect CO2e emissions.
Second, the industry should establish emission reduction targets, as well as a standardised carbon audit process. These standardised guidelines – which have been successfully implemented in other industries – can provide the structure needed for financiers and utilities to make increased investments in emission-reducing technologies.

Globally, USD40 bn could be saved through lower energy costs

Furthermore, it is important to note that China’s wastewater treatment industry is not alone in these opportunities and challenges. As highlighted in Xylem’s previous study, “Powering the Wastewater Renaissance: Energy Efficiency and Emissions Reduction in Wastewater Management, there is a global opportunity for the wastewater treatment industry to cut its electricity-related emissions in half by implementing readily available, high-efficiency technologies. In doing so, the industry can save nearly USD40 billion along the way through lower energy costs – truly a climate change policy that pays for itself.

Further Reading

  • Blue Skies & 13FYP Green Development – Air pollution and the battle on “blue skies” was by far the major environmental focus at China’s Two Sessions. Water and soil are no less important but yet softer and more general targets were set for them. See China Water Risk Hongqiao Liu’s review for the key takeaways
  • Key Water Policies 2016 – 2017 – Missed out on the key water and water-related policies in China over the last year? Get up to speed with China Water Risk Dawn McGregor’s review, including the latest on the water law
  • China’s Water Stress Is On The Rise – Water stress across 54% of China worsened in 2001-2010. The World Resources Institute’s Dr Jiao Wang, Dr Lijin Zhong & Charles Iceland deliver the good and the bad news of China’s latest water stress data
  • China Leads The G20 On Climate Change – In 2015, the world economy decarbonised at a record 2.8%. China led with the biggest reduction of 6.4%. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Robert Milnes on how this is tracked in their Low Carbon Economy Index
  • MyH2O – Test Your Water – To improve transparency, Charlene Ren set-up MyH2O, one of China’s first online crowdsourcing networks on drinking water quality. We sat down with Ren to learn more about their testing, interactive mapping platform and what’s next
  • 8 Things To Know About Recycling Water – Recycling water could alleviate some of China’s water challenges. Yet, only 10% of its treated wastewater is recycled. Not sure what reclaimed water is? Check out China Water Risk’s 8 things you should know
  • 8 Facts on China’s Wastewater – Don’t know anything about wastewater in China? Is it on the rise? Is industrial wastewater under-reported? Is it worse for rural areas? Check out our 8 facts from tech, key pollutants to standards
  • Water PPPs To Lead In China – All new water & wastewater projects in China need to follow the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model. Will this mean big change and how have other water-related projects been funded in China? China Water Risk’s Yuanchao Xu takes a look
  • T Park: Waste-to-Energy In Hong Kong – Hong Kong’s increasing waste load by 2030 will put tremendous pressure on its management capability.  Veolia’s Nina Cambadelis introduces T PARK, a state-of-the-art sludge treatment facility that turns waste into energy while achieving ‘zero wastewater discharge’
  • Fundamental Issues: Industrial Wastewater – Professor Ma Zhong, dean of the School of Environment of Renmin University gives his in-depth views on the industrial wastewater standards & pricing. Is it cheaper to pollute than to treat?
  • Consumers Willing to Pay More for Water – Lu Shuping, President of Xylem China, shares key findings of a survey of six Tier 1 & 2 cities. Do consumers understand China’s water crisis? Are they ready pay more for safe drinking water?
Lu Shuping
Author: Lu Shuping
Shuping Lu is President of Xylem (China) Co., Ltd. in charge of the Sales, Services and Operations in China. Shuping has been working for ITT since 1995 and served at different leadership positions. Before the current role, she also served as VP, General Manager of Fluid Technology China and VP, Director HR for ITT China & India. She led the ITT’s integration effort of its business in China & India during later 2007 and 2008 located in Shanghai. Prior working for ITT China & India, she had worked and lived in Sweden during 2004 - 2007 working for ITT Water & Wastewater Co. Ltd as the Global Champion for the company’s Management System, Lean and Six Sigma continuous improvement drive. She served as Vice General Manager for ITT Water & Wastewater (Shenyang) Co. Ltd before going to Sweden. Prior to joining ITT, Shuping worked for Shenyang Jinbei Automobile Passenger Vehicle Manufacturing Ltd.; as manager for its Import & Export Department. She holds a Master Degree of Business Administration from the US Central State University and China Northeastern University, and a Belcher Degree in English Literature at Shenyang Teacher’s College. In 2010, she graduated from an Executive Masters Program in Human Resources Leadership from Rutgers, the University of New Jersey, USA.
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