KETs Impact: Creating a paradigm shift in water treatment in the chemical industry


The recent SusChem White paper ‘Impact: Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in Horizon Europe’ included a number of success stories highlighting publicly funded innovation involving KETs and the SusChem Newsroom is featuring a selection of these fruitful 'SusChem inspired' initiatives.

KETs are technologies selected for their ability to address global challenges, support the development of new products, and stimulate economic growth.

Sustainable chemistry is essential to the technological advance of KETs including advanced materials, advanced manufacturing technologies, industrial biotechnology, micro and nanoelectronics, nanotechnology and photonics. SusChem's key enabling technologies provide the critical building blocks for the solutions needed to achieve a sustainable low carbon circular economy. You can find out more here.

Our fourth success story involves the E4Water: a FP7 project that SusChem and the Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform (WssTP) were directly involved with. The chemical industry provides the highest potential for increasing eco-efficiency in industrial water management and the project addressed crucial process industry needs, to overcome bottlenecks and barriers to enable integrated and energy efficient water management. The main objective was to develop, test and validate new integrated approaches, methodologies and process technologies for a more efficient and sustainable management of water in the chemical industry that could also be adopted in other major industrial sectors.



Water fit-for-purpose management

Economically and ecologically efficiency in the European Chemical Industry

Public funding brought an Innovation Ecosystem together to take on a significant challenge to develop and demonstrate eco-efficient industry water management

Water is a scarce resource and a key element for the development of our society and economy. The chemical industry, as a water user and solution provider of innovative products, technologies and services, offers significant potential for increasing eco-efficiency in industrial water management. To deal with critical challenges, such as the need to reduce water use, wastewater production and energy use, an EU FP7 funded project applied new research and development concepts to boost eco-efficiency and sustainability. E4Water has addressed a wide range of aspects relevant for an efficient integrated industrial water management in practice. Developments provided and demonstrated in the six case studies comprise: utilisation of alternative water sources; treatment of organic and inorganic wastewater streams and concentrates; recovery of valuables and energy from wastewater; linking process water and cooling water networks; combining different scales in water management (process – plant – site – local – regional); introducing tools to optimise water management; Life Cycle Assessment of selected measures; considering regulatory framework aspects. The success of the E4Water project has shown what is possible in the chemical and related process industry sectors in terms of ‘fit for purpose’ water management effectively decoupling industrial production from the use of fresh water, other natural resources and energy. The outcome of E4Water strengthens both, the leadership of the European Water Technology Industry and of position of the European Process Industries.

How was the breakthrough innovation achieved?

The E4Water project did create a complementing consortium with partners from nine EU countries: large chemical enterprises, leading European water sector companies, innovative research and technological development (RTD) centres and universities active in the area of water management. The European Technology Platform for Water (WssTP), the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem), the German Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DECHEMA), the SPIRE Public-Private Partnership (PPP)and water authorities were also linked through their members in the project. 


  • Economic impact: Significant economic benefit can be gained, for example, operating expenditure (OPEX) was reduced by up to 30% for every m3 of saved freshwater/year (depending on local conditions); or eliminating the need for incineration (e.g. 5 000 tonnes/annum/plant) together with establishing a business case, leading to revenue generation.
  • Environmental impact
  1. Reduced fresh water uptake of 40-80% resulting in freshwater savings of ~3 million m³/year in one case. 
  2. Reduced wastewater production of 30-80%, with close to 100% (loop closure) in one case and resulting in reduction of waste water production by ~2.5 million m3/year in another case. 
  3. Resource recovery, efficiently extracting resources from water and returning these to the prime process or a local increase in resource efficiency by use of algae. 
  4. Reduced energy use of up to 20% by using low energy technology, heat recovery, or optimising the integrated process with the use of improved modelling.
  • Social impact: Water is a key to resource efficiency, climate action and other major societal challenges: Efficient water management is also essential to enhancing resource efficiency, improving energy efficiency and thereby tackling climate change and ensuring the continuing supply of raw materials. The results are also key to implementing process intensification concepts that will form the basis of the chemical and process plants of the future. The E4Water resulted in strengthening the competitive position for Europe's process industry and water industry and keeping Europe an attractive location for industry.

More information

E4Water - Economically and Ecologically Efficient Water Management in the European Chemical Industry (FP7 GA 280756)

Read the SusChem White Paper ‘Impact: Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in Horizon Europe