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Foresighting for industrial wastewater treatment


Scottish Enterprise (SE) commissioned Mabbett to undertake research to provide insight into the supply chain opportunities and global market outlook of the wastewater treatment sector. Specifically, this research considers industrial plants and manufacturers who produce large quantities of wastewater. These companies may choose to operate their own wastewater treatment plant to save money, reuse water, to meet regulations or because Scottish Water may have insufficient capacity to take their wastewater. This research was commissioned in order to inform the SE Energy team about future opportunities in the industrial wastewater sector and to help SE to develop support for companies in this area. This will improve the company’s productivity, enable companies with innovative treatment technologies to demonstrate their products and in some cases, help the major user overcome any production or discharge limits.


This research included multiple interviews with individuals working in the Scottish industrial wastewater treatment sector. This included representation from across the component parts of the sector as well as representation from industry.


It is estimated that 56% of content in Scottish industrial wastewater treatment plants is Scottish (£177m out of £307m). The components with the most Scottish content were associated with the operational cost of a plant rather than capital cost. Scottish content tends to be associated with services that favour local support (e.g. on-site operation). Drivers for market growth, barriers to new market entrants and barriers to industry investment were considered. For example: the charging mechanisms associated with wastewater discharge can drive the market as improved quality can result in reduced discharge costs; regulations for wastewater discharge quality and/or quantity provides a driver as sites aim to maintain or reach compliance; proving the efficacy of a new technology can be a barrier to market entrants as this can require repetitions of the same tests by several potential clients; reputation is an important aspect of market involvement and if not developed can be a barrier for new market entrants; on-site wastewater treatment at an industrial site can have a high associated capital cost, a common barrier to industry investment; and wastewater treatment can be viewed by industry as an add-on activity required as a result of site activities, rather than an aspect crucial to production, thus wastewater treatment is often only addressed if compliance is at risk. Emerging and developing technologies are considered, including membrane technologies, biological treatment and anaerobic digestion as well as the emergence of ultrasonic reactors and photocatalytic oxidation. Regarding research and development (R&D) capabilities and testing facilities, it was found that Scottish Water Horizons’ Gorthleck and Bo’ness development centres are important features in Scotland’s R&D offering as they allow for testing of technologies in realistic conditions that may be found in industrial or municipal applications.


Recommendations have been made that could support both the market and industry: employment of capital payment models beyond the payment of capital up front; inclusion of operational performance targets (beyond compliance) in treatment plant operation contracts; Scottish adoption of the internet of things (IOT) for industrial wastewater treatment; introduction of qualifications/accreditations for wastewater treatment facility operators; utilisation of industrial sites for the testing and development of technologies; and introduction of/adherence to a recognised standard for the verification of wastewater treatment technologies.

Author Mabbett
Published Year 2020
Report Type Research
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