quadrillion (1015) or less. Developing the sampling and analytical technology to detect these concentrations has been a formidable challenge for Dow.
The magnitude of cost and complexity of Dow’s water-related activities prompted it to create an Environmental Operations Business in 1998. One of the goals of this business was to integrate Dow’s best practices in water, manage resources and technology, and optimize supplier relationships globally across the entire company. Pragmatically, creating a “business” or “profit-and-loss” entity in a company elevates the importance of its activities by making it financially accountable.
The Environmental Operations Business is responsible for managing Dow’s water envelope globally. It also manages water rights, conveyance, quality, use, and treatment for discharge. It is responsible for $3 billion of water-related assets, and consists of about 700 employees. It has the goal of reducing costs of all environmental operations by $1 billion dollars over the next 50 years. During its first year of operation it achieved a 3-5 percent reduction in water use across the entire company. Several specific examples follow.
To meet expansion needs and to meet Dow’s long-term environmental objectives, the Terneuzen site in Netherlands completely restructured its water infrastructure. The site now recycles 80 percent of its treated fresh wastewater and has reduced energy consumption for producing boiler feedwater by 90 percent. This is equivalent to reduced production of 55,000 tons of CO2 per year (or saving 930,000 million Btu per year).
Other significant results of this project include the following:
annual savings of U.S. $1.2 million for the cooling tower water supply as a result of recycling treated fresh wastewater, instead of importing fresh water;
by replacing multistage flash evaporation of seawater with reverse osmosis technology, 50 tons of low pressure steam is made available per hour for alternative uses on-site; and
long-term availability of fresh water in the region made possible by the significant increase in recycling.
The Terneuzen case demonstrated clearly that conservation and growth are compatible. In fact, in many cases, it makes excellent business sense to pursue water conservation and recycling.
In Freeport, Texas, home of Dow’s largest site, an initial goal of 30 percent reduction in freshwater use was set. By simply looking closely at water use, Dow found that it was losing 13,000 gallons per minute, merely through the inefficiency of water flow control within the system. This problem was remedied through simple enhancements to water management protocols, resulting in an annual savings of $135,000 per year in water and electricity.
This example demonstrated that saving water often comes not from new technologies but from better management of water transmission from one point to another. This success was the result of a Six Sigma project. Six Sigma methodology is playing a major role at Dow in providing a consistent, thorough methodology for evaluating water envelope management issues.
A cooling tower optimization project that is under way at Dow’s operations site in Midland will reduce freshwater