Water Journal : Water Journal May 2012
opinion water MAY 2012 41 and timers, maintaining equipment and pipes, and rainwater harvesting are all effective measures that can be implemented with relative ease with attractive payback periods. Now, while we have relatively good water supplies, is the time to implement greater operational changes throughout the abattoir. Water treatment solutions, effective rainwater harvesting and dry-manure collection all require a degree of shift in thinking and are not easily implemented into an existing abattoir. Meat processors that are planning upgrades in the next few years have an excellent opportunity to incorporate water usage changes in the design phase, thereby maximising the benefits while minimising the disruption to plant operation. Water, Energy and Embedded Carbon Water requires energy to heat (for hot water) and to move around within an abattoir. As energy costs rise, savings can be made by heating and pumping less water. Heat reclamation techniques from equipment such as compressors can be employed to re-heat water in boilers. For some meat processors, harnessing anaerobic energy may provide additional energy savings. Lowering energy and water use not only improves efficiency in a meat processing plant, but also reduces carbon emissions and the impact of the proposed carbon price. Energy use is now tied in with carbon emissions such that every cup of water has embedded carbon dioxide. Of the top 500 polluters of carbon emissions for the 2009/2010 financial year, as reported under the National Greenhouse Emissions Reporting (NGER) scheme, a significant number originate from the food and beverage industry, and at least four were meat processors. Typically, energy is required for water supply and treatment; consumption of water via heating, distribution and, possibly, further treatment; and, finally, wastewater collection and treatment. For every cup of water there are potentially three points of energy consumption and consequently increased carbon emissions. The analysis conducted by the CSIRO shows that for water supply and treatment for Brisbane, the average energy cost is 1.52kWh/kL representing 1.38 t.CO2eq per mega litre. Adelaide posts the highest costs at 3.38kWh/kL and 2.84 t.CO2eq per mega litre; Melbourne has the lowest at 0.91 kWh/kL and 1.11 t.CO2eq per mega litre. These are all pre-desalination figures, except for Adelaide. The trade-off between less water usage and the energy required to save that water needs to be considered. If the resultant water savings are outweighed by the amount of energy used to achieve the savings, then an overall environmental lowering of the carbon footprint may not have been achieved. In locations where water is scarce or the price is soaring, energy costs may take a back seat. It may in this instance be prudent to research alternative energy sources as well as supplemental water supplies. Sustainable Processes The final decision will be a complex process requiring a more holistic approach. Financially, it is a relatively simple process. If all the factors, including operations, maintenance, water and energy pricing are favourable, then the necessary changes can be budgeted. From an environmental perspective, the decisions will be more complex and dependent on location and, to some degree, dependent on community sentiment -- particularly with regard to treatment of wastewater. A good guideline is to ensure that the changes are at least carbon-neutral, meaning that your overall carbon budget is not contributing to Australia's overall carbon emissions. Consumer pressure to be a more 'sustainable' operation will also be a contributing factor to implementing improvements at the conceptual stage of a meat processor and ongoing changes such as re-use of water, treatment of waste and alternative sources of energy. By marketing product as 'sustainably produced,' opportunities for increased market share may be opened. Businesses and, in particular, large water users such as the food and beverage industry, need to understand that Australia has always been a continent of extremes, with extended periods of wet and dry. Now is the time to implement water and energy consumption change in a coordinated fashion that will save money -- and resources. This way, we will be ready for the next dry spell. *A typical plant for these comparisons as 150 HSCW (equivalent to 625 head of cattle), operating five days per week, 250 days per year. Source: Eco-efficiency Manual for Meat Processors, Queensland Government, MLA and AMPC. Guenter Hauber-Davison is Managing Director of www.WaterGroup.com.au. Guenter is passionate about securing our water supplies and saving money through cost-effective and sustainable solutions. He has over 10 years' experience in the food processing industry. Maximising water usage in abattoirs minimises water wastage.
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