Powering Up for Beer

Feb. 11, 2015

RO elements help brewery power plant meet feedwater requirements

About the author: Craig Granlund is senior account manager for Dow Water & Process Solutions. Granlund can be reached at [email protected]. Duane Miller is president of Consolidated Water Solutions. Miller can be reached at [email protected].


Breweries need power to produce beer, and power plants need consistent, high-quality water to operate effectively. Because source water varies based on location, water chemistry and time of year, a power station for a major North American brewing company turned to Dow Water & Process Solutions and Consolidated Water Solutions to deliver a means to a flavorful, full-bodied and satisfying end.

Water for Power

Power plants rely on a steady stream of water to convert heat energy into electrical energy to drive the turbines that run the electric generators. To accomplish this, plants require high-quality feedwater to operate their boiler and cooling systems. The treatment of boiler feedwater is critical, as problems can result from the use of untreated water in extreme pressure and temperature environments, including lower efficiency, overheating, damage and the need for frequent cleaning. Because 95% of water used in plant operations can be reused, it is vital that both the feedwater and recycled streams are effectively treated to prevent scale and corrosion in the steam water circuit. 

After seven years of efficient operations with a two-pass reverse osmosis (RO) system, Consolidated and Dow worked with the power company to evaluate system alternatives for a next-generation configuration, and performed calculations using Reverse Osmosis System Analysis (ROSA) simulation software to ensure that planned upgrades complied with plant specifications. 

To help further reduce the energy required to treat boiler feed makeup water and meet the brewery’s electrical energy and process stream requirements, the plant reconfigured and upgraded its water treatment system with Dow Filmtec Eco RO elements. Since the integration of the new RO technology, the water treatment system has reduced its energy consumption by 10% to 20%, and improved peak flow performance, including the ability to achieve peak flow times.

Improving Efficiency

Due to the highly variable and seasonally tempered nature of the power station’s source water, which is a combination of mountain and snow runoff, the plant requires a treatment technology that functions effectively across various temperatures and pressures. Initially, the power plant used deionization technology to treat incoming feedwater; however, system operations became too costly and risky in terms of expensive chemicals, storage and handling. In many cases, these demanding operational requirements can lead to increased fouling, a buildup of contaminants on the filter, corrosion and equipment malfunction. 

The winter months add additional concern, as source water reaches colder temperatures (45°F), requiring the system to operate at a higher pressure, which utilizes more energy. The Filmtec Eco RO elements are able to handle high feedwater rates and hit peak water flow times in winter with reduced pipe pressure and reduced fouling in the RO system, requiring less cleaning to restore productivity. The cost of cleaning, downtime and lost system performance can be significant, so reduced fouling is key to reducing costs while providing reliable power to the brewery. 

Since incorporating the Dow RO elements into the system, the plant has been able to reduce energy and operational costs because the pressure vessel is able to function optimally at 50 to 60 psi. The system also is able to handle higher feedwater rates and hit peak water flow times in winter with reduced fouling and pipe pressure. This adds up to significant cost savings for the brewing company.

Recognizing the perilous state of water demand, Filmtec Eco RO elements are designed with a configuration that offers the possibility of higher salt rejection at significantly reduced operating pressures, helping deliver up to 40% better water purification while using up to 30% less energy, typically resulting in up to 19% lower operating costs. In 2014, the elements were recognized by the Edison Universe with an Edison Award, celebrating their innovation and contribution to combatting global water scarcity.

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