How a water treatment plant gives back to nature through technologies and innovation
SUEZ is a French-based utility company operating worldwide primarily in the water and waste management industries. The company that we know today is the result of multiple development, with its true origins going back to the Universal Company of the Maritime Canal of Suez founded in 1858 to construct the Suez Canal in Egypt.
SUEZ produces drinking water for 66 million people worldwide, recovers two million tons of secondary raw materials per year, and generates 3.1 TWh of renewable energy. SUEZ has been working in Asia for almost 70 years, and currently employs more than 6,500 employees in over 40 joint ventures.
SUEZ operates in 16 industry parks across China, including the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park (SCIP) which has topped the rankings of Top 30 Chemical Parks in China for years.
The Shanghai Chemical Industry Park is one of the world’s largest industrial parks with a relentless focus on technical and operational excellence. SCIP is home to world-renowned Chinese and global petrochemical giants, including Sinopec, BASF, Covestro, and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical. In 2002, the Chinese authorities and SCIP management chose SUEZ to design, build and operate the site’s water and waste treatment plants for a period of 50 years.
Waste disposal has become a more pressing environmental challenge globally over the last century due to the changing nature of waste containing more toxic components and the overall increasing amount of waste being disposed. Landfills are a critical element of China’s waste management system. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, 55.9% of garbage collected ended up in landfills whereas 39.3% of the garbage was incinerated in 2017. Sadly landfills across China are reaching maximum capacity. In 2019, China’s largest landfill closed down 20 years earlier than its planned 50 years due to the amount of waste being collected was more than four times than what was originally projected.
Amongst the sources of potential pollution in industrial parks are wastewater, hazardous waste, and flue gases from combustion processes. Hazardous waste treatment is a legal requirement in China as past incidents saw the deaths of hundreds of people caused by illegal storage of such waste. In 2019, chemical waste illegally stored by Tianjiayi Chemical Company, Yancheng, Jiangsu Province exploded killing 78 people and injuring more than 600.
SCIP’s water and carbon footprint is considerable: strengthened commitments and strategies must be enforced in order to align with the global climate change mitigation goal set out by the Paris Agreement to avoid increasingly dangerous climate change impacts.
55.9% of garbage collected ended up in landfills whereas 39.3% of the garbage was incinerated in 2017. Sadly landfills across China are reaching maximum capacity.
Shared value strategy
To help SCIP become a global benchmark of excellence in ecological protection and boost circular economy, SUEZ has designed and co-invested in centralised, state-of-the-art infrastructure for water production, wastewater treatment as well as hazardous waste incineration. Operated by experienced staff backed by the expertise of SUEZ, the facilities provide the Park’s petrochemical industries with a safe, reliable, and cost-efficient solution for their effluents.
SUEZ’s employees inspect facilities at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park. Photo Credit: SUEZ
SUEZ’s technologies help the Park’s industries avoid having to carry out complex pre-treatment and by combining different residues, the utility company facilitates the various treatment processes. Residues are collected by a pipe network or hauled to the site by specialised vehicles. For specific operations like the removal of chemical catalysts or complex cleaning operations in industrial process, specialised staff are made available to the Park industries for on-site services. SUEZ adjusts to clients’ fluctuating production and thanks to several treatment lines, storage capacities and redundancies, they can guarantee 365-day acceptance even during maintenance operations. In addition, the industrial steam produced by SUEZ’s operations is returned to the Park’s industries to save on energy.
To maintain technological excellence, SUEZ and SCIP have established R&D centres for water and waste, supporting operations and promoting innovation in environmental protection. SUEZ also leverages on their international operations to deploy smart solutions to achieve water and wastewater refined management.
Integrated water service
SUEZ provides SCIP with integrated water services through a joint venture, the Sino French Water Development (SFWD) Company established in 2002. Companies at SCIP transfer their wastewater directly to SUEZ’s centralised wastewater treatment unit. The plant can treat many types of polluted water, including wastewater rich in organics and minerals. SUEZ’s treatment capacity is substantial: 44,500 m3/day of industrial wastewater, 300,000 m3/day of industrial water, 7,000 m3/day of domestic water, and 7,512 m3/day of demineralised water. The treated effluents can produce demineralised water through a process of advanced treatment and membrane technology, which can save two million cubic metres of water every year. This saving helps ensure the reuse of resources, reduces wastewater discharge, and optimises the ecological environment of the park.
Hazardous waste treatment
SUEZ provides hazardous waste treatment services through another joint venture: the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park Sita Waste Services (SCIP SITA) established in 2003. This agreement developed three treatment lines with an annual capacity of 120,000 tonnes for 298 types of industrial waste in 24 categories. SUEZ’s disposal solution covers the entire chain from waste acceptance, through packaging, collection, transportation, incineration, and finally analysis to ensure end-to-end transparency, traceability, and compliance with local standards. SUEZ’s incinerator can control dioxin concentration below European Union standards, thus ensuring cleaner air. SUEZ not only serves the 100 chemical companies in SCIP, but also handles the waste of some 1,000 organisations that surround the park.
SUEZ operates one of Asia’s largest hazardous waste treatment facilities at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park. Photo Credit: SUEZ
In 2020, following the success of the partnership with SCIP, SUEZ, SCIP, and SAIC Motor, one of China’s Big Four automobile manufacturers, formed a new joint venture to recover hazardous waste from the automotive sector and other clients within the Park. A total investment of HK$527 million was unlocked to build a new hazardous waste treatment facility, which has increased annual waste treatment capacity by 40,000 tons.
The incinerator is also equipped with an advanced energy recovery system to recycle the heat generated from incineration and produce steam for industrial companies in SCIP. By using steam from the incineration process as a replacement for the steam generated from traditional fossil fuel, industries within the Park reduce their carbon footprint and emission of greenhouse gases. The facility delivers the benefits of circularity and has enabled the saving of 55,000 tons of standard coal per year, equivalent to the avoidance of 143,000 tons/y in CO2 emissions from coal combustion.
In addition to reducing their clients’ carbon footprint, SUEZ helped companies in the Park save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in energy and water costs, achieving the dual objective of environmental and business efficiency, a core element of a shared value strategy.
Wetland to preserve biodiversity
In the northeast region of the Park, SUEZ has designed and supported SCIP to build an artificial ecological wetland covering some 50 hectares after its expansion. By applying Zone Libellule® technology, the wetland contains a selection of coastal plants with high purification properties to treat industrial water naturally. This wetland, the first project in a Chinese industrial park to use Zone Libellule® for the treatment of industrial wastewater, creates an ideal ecosystem for local flora and fauna to flourish. It also benefits the Park by retaining water, thus preventing or reducing potential storm flood damage. It is truly “based on nature and giving back to nature.”
Commitments to research and innovation
SUEZ has established two research centres in the Park. The Water Research Centre (SWRs) is the first research and development facility in China devoted to industrial water supply and wastewater treatment research.
The Waste R&D Centre investigates innovative solutions for hazardous waste recycling and disposal, with a special attention to waste-to-energy recovery, process optimisation, and the elaboration of industrial standards. SUEZ’s technical experts were invited by Chinese regulators to participate in the drafting of such industry standards.
In addition to these research facilities, SUEZ has partnered with 9 local universities to build a platform for innovation. The company works as a “enterprise mentor” to coach teams of students to realise their projects.
In 2019, SUEZ and SCIP jointly invested in the construction and operation of the Smart Environment Center, with the aim of further advancing SCIP’s digital transformation and smart management. The centre connects the Park, customers, industrial water plants, wastewater treatment plants, desalination plants, and water networks, and it integrates a full suite of SUEZ joint venture digital solutions, such as the AQUADVANCED® system, NOSE PLATFORM®, GIS system, BI reporting, and remote metering, among others. The centre enables centralised, comprehensive, and 24/7 management of key production, operation, and safety data. It also helps improve environmental governance and customer satisfaction with environmental services. The centre has become a centre of excellence for showcasing smart industrial park services.
SUEZ also won the Sustainable Business Award – Resilient Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Leader Award from the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China in 2021.
More efficient emissions reduction for green production
In 2022, SUEZ’s distributed solar power project on the site of its SCIP Joint-Venture (SFWD) achieved successful grid connection.
The process of building solar power plants on SCIP JV sites have seen solar panels erected on the water plant structure, making full use of the existing soil-covered top of the clear water tank for construction and installation of photovoltaic (PV) modules and supporting power facilities to improve how space is used. The project is connected to the water plant’s electricity supply system, thereby reducing the load on the system. The project also uses smart management techniques, thanks to a smart online diagnostic feature that evaluates the status of the PV arrays in real time. The system comes with a PV monitoring and alert function, which facilitates timely identification and location of failures by maintenance staff. This ensures safe and stable power generation, as well as consumption with high detection efficiency.
SUEZ SCIP is an example of the company’s waste management and water treatment excellence practices, which are recognised across the whole Asia-Pacific region.
SUEZ is the only multinational company to make the “Top 10 Most Influential Water Companies in China” list for 19 consecutive years. SUEZ’s water and waste project in SCIP have been selected as the first national model case study of “Third-party Environmental Pollution Treatment in Industrial Parks” in China.
Today, SUEZ has established over 30 solid, long-term collaborations with municipal and industrial partners in major hubs like Shanghai, Chongqing, Tianjin, Qingdao, and Macao to support them in developing innovative solutions for climate change and sustainable resource management.
Mitigation of the impact to climate change through circularity model development, green energy transformation and nature-based solution development
Development of an extensive business portfolio in six countries across APAC
Reduction of energy costs
Reduction of health impact to the general public by implementing most strict requirements on waste and wastewater treatment
More resilience to increasingly stringent government requirements thanks to the advanced technology being implemented
Caring the younger generation through offering opportunity to university students to work with industry champion; or younger students to visit and receive knowledge of environmental protection
Accelerated development of innovative solutions
Co-creation and collaboration with partners and stakeholders to succeed such as SCIP, other companies in the park