Frédéric Thery, CEO of Veolia Water Technologies in Asia-Pacific, gives updates about the group’s sustainability pursuits into the next half of 2023. With Hubgrade, a new smart monitoring solution, and the SIDEM Barrel multi-reverse osmosis (RO) element technology, Veolia continues to boost water operations in APAC.
By Amira Yunos
What has been and will be Veolia’s focus in the various market sectors, solution applications, and Asia-Pacific region for the past year and in the next half of 2023?
Frédéric Thery: For the past year, our focus in Veolia has been on bringing about ecological transformation through close partnerships with our customers. We have accelerated the deployment of our solutions, such as those for water reclamation and recycling, to address water scarcity issues that many experience. These include filtration and desalination technologies that make recycled water safe.
We will continue to address varied water challenges faced by our customers across the region — such as extreme weather conditions in countries like China and Australia, or intensive water needs in industries like microelectronics.
As part of the ecological transformation, Veolia focuses on utilising technology to address complex industrial resource challenges. For instance, we have commissioned the macro porous polymer extraction (MPPE) technologies in the microelectronic market to tackle the sector’s complex water streams, increasing the process water reclaim ratio to over 85% for ultra-pure water (UPW) while enhancing the recovery of isopropyl alcohol (IPA). This helps to reduce environmental pollution and also conserves water resources and reintegrates IPA into production processes, thereby maximising its deployment in a sustainable manner.
This year, we will commission our first regeneration plant in China — which, along with the expansion of our mobile water service units, strengthens our portfolio of services in the region and allows us to better support customers in solving treated water needs nimbly.
How has Veolia performed in 2022?
Thery: 2022 was a positive year for us. We launched initiatives that will enable us to accelerate our goal to make Veolia a global champion of ecological transformation. We consolidated our efforts through new solutions and development of partnerships with customers and vendors.
Over the last three years, Veolia has enabled our customers to save 320 million m3 of water — the equivalent consumption of a city with 6 million population — due to innovation, digital solutions, and enhanced reuse applications to better manage water and wastewater cycles.
Veolia has focused on solutions that optimise water, energy, and chemical consumption, reduce environmental impact, and improve the efficiency of water treatment processes. Last year, we introduced the SIDEM Barrel technology to the Asia-Pacific market, a multi-RO element vessel that addresses water needs in traditional desalination applications. It is proving to be a great solution for markets like mining, oil and gas, as well as for water reuse in the municipal market. Separately for China, we introduced Athos, a technology to treat municipal sludge that works well to reduce operating costs and carbon emissions, and addresses the requirements of China’s 2060 decarbonisation policy.
Another highlight would be the new partnerships we entered last year. One example is the work we are doing with Mölnlycke Malaysia, where we aim to reduce the water consumption at their recently inaugurated glove manufacturing facility by 50%. We have already achieved positive results so far and look forward to a potential additional 30% reduction once the plant is fully operational in 2026.
The recent UN 2023 Water Conference concluded with commitments to achieve sustainable development goals. In your opinion, how should water companies unite to achieve its agenda and its water-related goals?
Thery: Water companies such as Veolia have a responsibility to work around the challenges of climate change, such as developing ways and technologies that adapt to water scarcity and tackle the water crisis.
We are committed to supporting our customers in this journey of ecological transformation for a more sustainable future, and are actively working with both partners and customers to bring about decisive changes. The solutions to address the water crisis already exist, but implementing them on a global scale would require a joint effort from all stakeholders — governments, statutory boards, and private companies — to act decisively.
Collectively, Veolia is taking action and has committed US$1.5bn to global water and sanitation access to advance the UN Water Conference goals.
What digital solutions does Veolia offer that provide water management applications?
Thery: Smart data can revolutionise the way a water or wastewater treatment plant is managed, and it can facilitate better tertiary treatment and reuse. By investing in digital tools, municipalities and companies can make their water reuse processes more sustainable.
To that extent, we have developed Hubgrade — a solution that combines digital tools and with the expertise of Veolia employees — to empower customers to achieve greater operational and environmental efficiency. Hubgrade provides real-time and reliable assessments of the treatment processes, and it enables proactive and evidence-based decision making for operations teams. We have over 1,000 connected sites worldwide and have achieved tremendous results of up to 30% energy reduction for aeration, 100% reduction of chemicals, 40% more biological capacity, and 100% hydraulic capacity increase in a large municipal wastewater treatment plant.
These results demonstrate that attaining greater impact is possible when we apply the right expertise and solutions to address specific needs, to ensure that water resources are used effectively.
How do sustainability practices — in water consumption, business model or manufacturing processes — help reduce water loss, and how has Veolia partnered with utilities to improve sustainability practices?
Thery: Sustainable practices can help address the issue of water loss and, in the long run, mitigate the challenge of water scarcity. However, companies and utilities need to review their existing solutions and infrastructure, and be open to embracing new technologies or ways to apply existing technologies that can help minimise water losses during the treatment processes.
Veolia offers ready solutions, combining both global and local expertise, to support our municipal customers to review and improve their sustainability practices. For example, at the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) in Malaysia, we have implemented a suite of our solutions that will enable the recovery of at least 80% of the sewage for reuse within the TRX district — reducing site wide water demand by 50%.
Veolia is committed to working with companies to spearhead ecological transformation through accelerating and massively deploying existing solutions to address current water needs, while investing in research and innovation to anticipate and prepare for tomorrow’s needs on a global scale.