PUB opens world’s largest ceramic membrane water treatment plant

Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, has unveiled its latest state-of-the-art water treatment plant at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks (CCKWW), which houses the largest ceramic membrane system in the world.

This is the result of the PUB’s long-term investments in R&D with over a decade of dedicated research and trials in ceramic membrane technology. Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, officiated the opening of the new facility.

In addition to the large-scale deployment of ceramic filtration membranes in CCKWW, ozone-biological activated carbon filters were also added to strengthen the disinfection and treatment process. PUB’s continuous R&D and innovation efforts to improve the efficiency of its water treatment process and operations ensures that it continues to provide safe drinking water for Singapore.

Ceramic membrane technology is one of the latest breakthroughs in membrane technology, being more energy-efficient with a smaller land footprint, and cost-efficient with a longer lifespan. They are highly durable and expected to last 20 years, while polymeric membranes have to be replaced every five years. Water loss is also significantly reduced with the use of ceramic membranes, from 5 percent to one per cent.

Back in the 1970s, Singapore relied on conventional sand filtration systems to process water, remove turbidity, bacteria and large suspended solids from water. Subsequent advancements in technology increased the affordability of membrane technology. In 2008, CCKWW completed the first upgrade to replace sand filters with polymeric membranes, while PUB worked with industry partners to conduct trials on ceramic membrane technology.

The first ceramic membrane demonstration plant was built at CCKWW in 2011 after the initial pilot project at Bedok NEWater Factory showed promising results. Built at the cost of SGD five million and with a daily capacity of 1.2 million litres, the rigorous 18-month trial validated the efficiency and reliability of ceramic membrane use in water treatment.

The second upgrade of CCKWW commenced in 2016 to deploy ceramic membranes on a larger scale. This saw the construction of a new facility, installation of ceramic membranes and the inclusion of ozone-BAC treatment for the plant. Construction work took about three years at the cost of SGD $162 million.

The PUB will progressively incorporate advanced water treatment processes in the other five water treatment plants in Singapore (Bedok Avenue, Bukit Timah, Chestnut Avenue, Lower Seletar, and Woodleigh Waterworks) when they are due for upgrade. Chestnut Avenue Waterworks and Woodleigh Waterworks are currently undergoing upgrading to include ozone-BAC treatment in the water treatment process, and this is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Said Mr Masagos Zulkifli, minister for the environment and water resources, “The installation of the ceramic membranes together with the ozone-BAC system means that Choa Chu Kang Waterworks possesses one of the most advanced water treatment systems in the world. Adopting this technology not only ensures that we continue to have a reliable supply of clean and safe drinking water, it also helps the PUB improve their energy and water efficiency in water production. Such plant upgrades are part of the PUB’s efforts to continually enhance its water treatment capabilities to ensure that Singapore has an efficient, adequate and sustainable supply of water.”