Food & Beverage

How to use water treatment chemicals to reduce your Food & Beverage plant’s water footprint?

You know it all too well: the Food & Beverage industry is one of the most water intensive of all industries. Industrial water is crucial to manufacturers, as it is both used as an ingredient, and as a resource in the plants’ processes and utilities.

But as the market is expanding, particularly in growth markets such as China and Brazil, those manufacturers face a new challenge: reducing their water consumption, to cope with water scarcity, and meet the increasing environmental regulations and growing customer expectations regarding sustainability.

In this post, you will discover which water treatment chemicals you can use to reduce your Food & Beverage plant’s water footprint, and how they can help you meet your global sustainability goals.


Image par roegger de Pixabay

How water treatment chemicals can improve your plant’s efficiency

First and foremost, it is important to understand how water treatment chemicals can be an asset in your water footprint reduction project.

In fact, using those treatments in a Food & Beverage plant helps you meet various goals. It enables you to…

  • Protect your equipment, such as cooling towers, boilers, membrane systems, and wastewater equipment, and expand its life
  • Treat the water so that it can be recycled and reused in your process
  • Maximize the plant’s operational performance and efficiency as a whole


Thus, using those kinds of treatments enables you to decrease your water consumption in two different ways. On the one side, you reduce the quantity of water your plant uses for maintenance or cleaning your equipment. On the other side, you reuse the chemically treated water in your process, instead of discharging it in the environment right after its first use.

Which types of water treatment chemicals should you use?

Two kinds of water treatment chemicals can help you achieve your water footprint reduction goals: those that help you maintain your equipments’ performances, and those that help you set up wastewater treatment systems. Here are the main ones that you can think about applying to your own Food & Beverage factory.

Water treatments for your equipments


Anti-corrosion chemicals

Corrosion is a great challenge for F&B manufacturers, as it can endanger their equipment, and generate additional water consumption in the utilities.

To avoid this issue, a corrosion inhibitor treatment can be used on:

  • A cooling tower, to prevent corrosion in the heat exchanger
  • A boiler, to prevent corrosion in the core equipment and piping
  • A pasteurizer and sterilizer, to prevent corrosion inside the whole equipment

Those anti-corrosion chemicals create a film on the equipment’s metal, protecting it from the corrosive elements.

Moreover, corrosion inhibitors can also be used on process water, for instance to prevent the metallic and tinplate cans and bottles’ crown caps from corrosion. When used as such, they act as a real “branding protection” for your packaging.

Most of those chemicals are phosphate-based. But some “green chemistry” alternatives start to develop. For instance, at SUEZ, we developed a 100% natural polymer that acts just like traditional chemical corrosion control agents. This innovative solution avoids polluting the wastewater, that can then be safely discharged in the environment or reused in a part of your process.

Anti-scaling agents

It is well-known in the manufacturing sector: boilers, cooling towers and pasteurizers are highly exposed to scaling. This scaling is caused by the calcium, silicium and other minerals that are naturally present in the water, and often become too concentrated in those utilities.

In that regard, anti-scaling agents can have multiple goals:

  • By preventing the crystals’ formation and growth, they reduce the maintenance needed on the equipment
  • By doing so, they also help protect your assets in the long run
  • By increasing the crystals’ solubility, they enable you to reuse water in some parts of your production process


Therefore, by fighting scaling in your utilities with the right water treatment chemicals, you optimize the way water is used in your utilities, and increase your operational efficiency and costs on the whole.

Biocides

Microbiological control is essential to prevent the growth of algae, fungi or bacterias in your equipment. For instance, in cooling towers, those microorganisms can block the heat exchanger, causing it to malfunction: maintenance that uses water is then needed, when it could have been avoided with the right biocide treatments.

What types of biocides can help you control microbiology in your equipment? Two different types of such chemicals exist:

  • Oxidising biocides. Those water treatment chemicals lead to the death of the bacteria from oxidation. Note that those chemicals can cause corrosion issues on the equipment.
  • Non-oxidising biocides. These help prevent corrosion in your equipment: they are highly recommended to extend your utilities’ lifespan and performance.


Besides, biocides also have a great role to play in the safety of your final food products. Indeed, they avoid the growth of potential dangerous bacteria for humans, for instance legionella. They also act as purification and disinfection chemicals, preventing the final product’s packaging from bacterial contamination and food safety hazards.

When searching for the most effective water chemical treatments for your plant, you may have to consider using two or three of the chemicals you just learned about. By combining some of them, you can reduce your plant’s water footprint even more.

For instance, deposit control chemicals and microbiology chemicals control are often linked: in fact, scaling and fouling on the equipment can become a dangerous support for the contaminant to grow upon, leading to even less operational efficiency on your plant, or causing under deposits corrosion.


Image par Thilo Becker de Pixabay


Wastewater treatments

Wastewater discharge plays an important part in the water footprint of a Food & Beverage plant. But some chemicals can help you reuse much more water than usual, by treating your effluent the right way before reinjecting them into your process, using the right water quality.

To do so, the main wastewater treatment chemicals used are…

  • Coagulant & flocculants (to avoid coagulation and flocculation). Those can be used in flotation processes, where suspended solids, phosphorus and fats are then dissolved, as well as in dewatering processes, to make your industrial sludge as dry as possible. In that sense, those chemicals could help improve your water systems by reducing the amount of water you discharge at the end of your production process.
  • Bioaugmentation chemicals. When using anaerobic chemicals, you both reduce the organic content in your wastewaters (making them available for reusing in your process), and produce biogas that can be reused inside your plant (reducing your energy consumption as a whole) or sold to external consumers.
  • Anti-foaming products. Used in flotation processes or biological reactors, those chemicals prevent foam formation, and avoid water overflowing.


Want to know more about best practices in water reuse? Read our post on the subject, and start implementing your own wastewater reuse system right now.

For extra water savings: Use digital solutions to enhance your chemical treatment strategy

As a Food & Beverage manufacturer, you can also rely on the digital and IoT age to help you reduce even more your water footprint, by boosting your water treatment systems’ efficiency. Indeed, by linking your equipment to sensors, controllers and digital monitoring solutions, you can save even more water on your plant.

Such digital solutions help you…

  • Collect chemical, operational and analytical data from your plant, to monitor (24/7 and in real-time) your assets’ and process’ performances
  • Improve the way you use your chemical treatments on a daily basis, whether by taking proactive actions to enhance their performance, or corrective actions to solve issues, even at a distance


At SUEZ, we develop digital platforms that guide manufacturers towards more operational efficiency, and help them use our chemical solutions the best way possible.

For instance, by combining our TrueSense® and InSight® solutions, you can avoid even more the scaling of your cooling towers. InSight® enables you to accumulate data, and spot in real-time the anti-scaling chemicals your equipment really needs. As a consequence, you are able to inject the right chemical treatment at the right time, and the water cycles inside the cooling-tower increase.

Another example of such digital solutions are the wireless sensors that enable you to monitor every tank level in your plant, remotely and continuously. With this precise and ceaseless monitoring, you use the right amount of water inside your utilities, so that they work at their maximum performance without wasting any water.