APA –World Water Day was March 22, but every day is Water Day for Ford Motor Company. A recently announced goal calls for Ford to cut the amount of water used to make each vehicle 30 percent globally by 2015, compared with 2009.
The Company's plants in Asia Pacific and Africa share in this aggressive goal, and have already reduced water usage per vehicle by 25% from 2000 to 2011.
“As we increase production in the Asia Pacific and Africa region, we are focused on assuring that we make the most efficient use of water” said Gary Johnson, vice president, Manufacturing, Asia Pacific and Africa. "We recognize the critical importance of this precious natural resource."
More technology, less water
In addition to taking basic actions like eliminating water leaks, Ford is also using new technology to reduce water use. In December of last year, several evaporative cooling towers at the Geelong, Australia engine plant were replaced with new highly efficient coolers that use up to 80% less water than traditional cooling towers. These hybrid dry coolers use air for cooling during cold and moderate seasons and only use water during the hot summer season.
Zero Wastewater Discharge at the Chennai Plant
Like other auto companies, Ford has been expanding our operations and production in Chennai in an effort to serve one of the world’s fastest-growing auto markets. One challenge, however, has been finding ways to do so while conserving water.
Government authorities in India have been requiring manufacturers to achieve zero liquid discharge in their operations, as a way to encourage them to reuse water and reduce their overall water use. Our Ford assembly plant in Maraimalai Nagar, 45 kilometers southwest of Chennai, is on track to achieve that goal this year, thanks to an innovative process that treats the plant’s wastewater and recycles it back into our manufacturing processes. Working toward the zero discharge goal has helped us understand and gain experience with new water-saving technologies.
To reach zero liquid discharge, the Chennai plant is implementing a combination of physical, chemical and biological treatment operations. Wastewater streams from the assembly and engine plants are individually pre-treated before being mixed with sanitary and cafeteria wastewaters. Following biological treatment, the stream passes through media filtration and activated carbon before it is ultrafiltered. This final stream is sent to a 3-stage reverse osmosis system which produces a large volume of salt-free water and a small volume of concentrated brine. The water in the brine is boiled off, condensed and reused in the plant leaving behind a solid salt.
These water-saving actions make the Chennai plant one of Ford's lowest water usage plants, coming in at 1.16 cubic meters of water use per vehicle produced.
Water reuse in China and South Africa
Other Ford plants in the Asia Pacific and Africa region are reducing water use, too. Both Chongqing Assembly Plants 1 and 2, in China, have established water reuse capability.
Using the same type of technology that is used at Chennai, the Chongqing Assembly Plant 1 was able to avoid using 110,000 cubic meters of fresh water in 2011. Up to 35 cubic meters of water per hour can be reused in the paintshop.
Water reuse lessons learned at Chongqing Assembly Plant 1 are being applied at the recently opened Chongqing Assembly Plant 2. Up to 60 cubic meters of water per hour can be reused in the paintshop.
Later this year, a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant will begin operation at our Silverton Assembly Plant in South Africa. This will enable the plant to double the amount of water reuse.