Water Management R&D

Water research encompasses the need to reduce the amount of freshwater used by power plants and to minimize any potential impacts of plant operations on water quality. The vision for this program area is to develop a 21st century America that can count on abundant, sustainable fossil energy and water resources to achieve the flexibility, efficiency, reliability, and environmental quality essential for continued security and economic health. To accomplish this, crosscutting research is needed to lead a critical national effort directed at removing barriers to sustainable, efficient water and energy use, developing technology solutions, and enhancing understanding of the intimate relationship between energy and water resources.


U.S. Water Withdrawal
Coal Fired Units - County Level

U.S Water Consumption
Coal Fired Units - County Level
2005 Thermoelectric water requirements:

– Withdrawal: ~ 143 BG
– Consumption: ~ 4 BGD

Water is a vital resource that is inextricably linked to the quality of our lives and the demand continues to struggle with the interconnectivity of water use and consumption. The role water plays in the generation of power is well documented and National efforts are underway to minimize the demand on water. In concert with the Water-Energy Nexus initiative, the challenge for this initiative centers on reducing water use and consumption for thermoelectric power generation. Thermoelectric power generation accounts for over 40 percent of freshwater withdrawals (143 billion gallons of water per day) and over 3 percent of freshwater consumption (4 billion gallons per day) in the United States. Thermoelectric power plant water consumption is slated to increase from 3 percent (1995 USGS data) to as high as 10 percent given the expansion of closed loop cooling and cooling towers. To further exacerbate the problem, water consumption projections for will dramatically increase with the implementation of carbon capture technologies. As the cost associated with water consumption increases so too will the cost of water treatment, recovery and reuse.

 


U.S. Freshwater Withdrawal
USGS, Estimated Use of Water
in the United States in 2005,
USGS Circular 1344, 2009

U.S. Freshwater Consumption
USGS, Estimated Use of Water
in the United States in 1995,
USGS Circular 1200, 1998

The Environmental Control has conducted an integrated R&D effort directed at technologies and concepts to reduce the amount of freshwater used by power plants and to minimize any potential impacts of plant operations on water quality. The vision for the this program area is to develop a 21st century America that can count on abundant, sustainable fossil energy and water resources to achieve the flexibility, efficiency, reliability, and environmental quality essential for continued security and economic health. To accomplish this crosscutting research is needed to lead a critical national RD&D effort directed at removing barriers to sustainable, efficient water and energy use, develop technology solutions, and enhance understanding of the intimate relationship between energy and water resources.

The Crosscutting Research Program has supported water research over the past decade. The current goal is to identify projects which will develop a range of technologies to optimize and/or reduce freshwater use for energy processes through improved waste heat recovery, alternate heat transfer fluids, and new sources of water (i.e. utilizing treated wastewater). Acquisition of these research projects is based on a comprehensive, multipronged R&D approach on a portfolio of technologies along multiple paths to enhance the probability of success of research efforts that are operating at the boundaries of current scientific understanding. The R&D covers a wide scale, integrating advances and lessons learned from fundamental research, technology development, and large-scale testing. The success of this effort will enable cost-effective implementation of technologies throughout the power generation sector. These projects are being developed on 3- to 5-year timelines. The Crosscutting Research Technology Areas provide a consistent focus on important technologies. The interrelationships between the Crosscutting Research Technology Areas help ensure that critically important key technologies receive adequate R&D funding and focus. In turn, these important key technologies support various Technology Areas in other programs.


Process Efficiency

Improvements in heat transfer technology and better thermal integration of power plant systems (particularly new plants that include carbon capture technologies) will need greater efficiency to reduce their water needs.

 

Water Treatment

Research is being performed in this program area to develop advanced technologies to reuse power plant cooling water and associated waste heat and to investigate methods to recover water from power plant flue gas. Considering the quantity of water withdrawn and consumed by power plants, any recovery or reuse of this water can significantly reduce the plant’s water requirements. Water treatment research is focused on high dissolved solids waste streams.

Data Collection, Modeling, and Analysis

The focus is to improve the quality and amount of data collected, conduct comprehensive modeling efforts of complex systems, and provide crosscutting analyses to help inform decision-makers and support policy development. Stakeholder decision making must target qualitative and quantitative scenarios, probabilistic approaches, insights into system shocks and extremes, and improved characterization of uncertainties.