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Special Report: Editor's Comment – Water management in the downstream industry

by Martin Menachery on Dec 20, 2017


Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

Water is used throughout the oil and gas project lifecycle. In the entire value chain, the oil and gas industry uses water as a raw material in a multitude of ways and in large quantities. Water is used or treated in various forms – as process water, production water, rainwater, cooling water, injection water, wastewater, tank cleaning water and domestic wastewater – by the industry.

Proper management of the process water and wastewater is an important element in the successful operation of a downstream industry unit. The method of treatment of the wastewater depends on many factors – the quality of the crude oil, the process involved in treating the oil, the end applications of the by-products, etc.

As of now, the refining and petrochemicals manufacturing industry is facing stringent environmental regulations, cost minimisations and lack of new investments. Under these circumstances, to run a profitable downstream unit, it is very important to have upmost efficiency in the management of its water cycle. Today’s water treatment challenges can directly impact the effectiveness of key pieces of heat transfer equipment and negatively affect the energy efficiency of process units. Hence, effective sustainable running of the water cycle is critical to sustainable and reliable operations.

Where treating the discharges generated by the refining and petrochemical sector is concerned, the wastewater can be re-used once it has been treated, which therefore enables water resources to be preserved.

Many environmental regulations over the recent years related to petroleum product quality have resulted in re-configuration of refining operations and the addition of energy intensive units, which have added a significant need for water to be diverted from various sources. Petroleum refineries rely on clean water sources for a variety of processes, from crude oil desalting to hydroprocessing units and cooling towers.

The oil and gas industry consumes large amounts of water and also produces large amounts of water due to the extraction of oil and gas. The oil and gas companies, to meet their specific requirements, rely on water treatment specialists in order to guarantee production continuity, and to comply with increasingly strict environmental standards.

The refining and petrochemical manufacturing industry has a significant role to play in protecting the quality of water in the areas where its plants operate. These plants are faced with demanding environmental management challenges and regulations.

Both water quality and quantity are becoming a global environmental concern and water is a finite resource. From multiple users, a huge majority of wastewater flows back into the environment untreated, where it may cause environmental damage. By efficient use of water recycling and re-use strategies, as well as treatment options, this can be combatted.

An updated water management plan could considerably increase the environmental performance and economic efficiency of the downstream complexes, making those more market competitive, due to the importance of water in the refinery and petrochemical unit operations.

Another important point is that based on the feedstock quality, there is a need for use of certain technologies that are more water intensive. Despite these additional requirements, the downstream industry in the Middle East has made major achievements in water use efficiency, thanks to the innovative water management solutions available for the sector.


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