February 22, 2022 | Late in January Aquafin, Ekopak, PMV and water-link announced a collaboration to convert the treated wastewater from Antwerp households into cooling water for companies in the Port of Antwerp by 2025.
The collaboration is named Waterkracht (‘the power of water’) and is a significant milestone in the transition to a sustainable port.
20 billion liters of circular cooling water per year
A new, high-tech purification installation will be built. As of 2025, the Aquafin system will treat and convert 20 billion liters of wastewater into a much higher quality of cooling water on an annual basis. This is the equivalent of the water consumption of over 600,000 inhabitants. This means that water-link will significantly increase its capacity to supply process water in the port. Today, the supply is more than 50 billion liters. This is sourced from the production centre in Oelegem that draws from the Albert Canal. The use of a circular, alternative water source reduces the pressure on freshwater resources and prepares for future sustainable growth.
First step: set up of a joint venture
Water-link, PMV, and Ekopak have set up a joint venture that will develop the cooling water plant. The company is named Waterkracht and is a pre-eminent example of public-private partnership. Waterkracht is in talks with the Port of Antwerp with regard to building the forward-looking water purification installation for this project on a plot in the NextGen district. This form Opel site will be converted into a circular hub in the port. Ekopak will build and run the installation. The membrane technology will purify the wastewater for subsequent industrial applications. ‘With this project, Ekopak can make a significant contribution to making the entire port sustainable,’ said Pieter Loose, Ekopak’s CEO.
‘Purified wastewater is an excellent source for a variety of reuse applications’
The purified wastewater is first supplied from Aquafin’s sewage treatment plant on Moerstraat, which is centrally located in the port area. But two to three additional water purification installations in the region are also being considered. Here, the household wastewater of the people in Antwerp is treated according to European and Flemish standards. Jan Goossens, Aquafin CEO: ‘Purified wastewater is an excellent source for a variety of reuse applications. You can purify it to any quality as long as the necessary additional processing steps are built in. Structural applications in industry lend themselves perfectly to this.’
Aquafin will build new pipelines to transport the purified wastewater directly to Ekopak’s post-treatment facility in the future instead of discharging it as surface water. Infrastructure is still needed for transport to the purchasing companies. The collaboration project therefore involves more than just the construction of the cooling water plant. A new pipe distribution network in the port, developed by PMV and water-link, will ensure that industrial customers on both the left and the right bank can use the circular cooling water.
The direct and indirect investments for this project amount to more than 100 million euros. The parties involved entered into a preliminary agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) to make the establishment of the joint venture possible. Michel Casselman, PMV General Manager: ‘Projects that contribute to the successful continuation of the transition to a circular economy in Flanders must find funding for this project. With this investment, we want to offer a solution to one of the biggest challenges in this area, the reuse of water.’
Waterkracht will be one of the largest water reuse projects in Flanders and even far beyond. Franky Cosaert, Water-link CEO: ‘Circularity in action, that’s what this project means to us. From 2025 onwards, we will be able to supply high-quality, sustainable cooling water to our industrial customers in the port. By using purified wastewater as a source, we are also taking an important step in ensuring continued security of supply for all our customers, from households to businesses.’