In the search for alternative sources of water to contribute to water security, ArcelorMittal Tubarão announces a bold, innovative and pioneering project in Brazil – and a first in the ArcelorMittal Group – construction of a sea water desalination plant.

Work will begin this year and is expected to be completed within two years. It will produce up to 500m³/h of industrial water for the plant’s water system, providing an alternative source to freshwater from Santa Maria da Vitória River. Today, freshwater represents 3.5% of the water consumed by the company (96.5% is sea water), part of which is treated, transformed into potable water and used for human consumption. 

During construction, 220 jobs will be created - 160 of them as direct labour (civil works, assembly and electro mechanics). Afterwards, operation and maintenance will be performed by eight own employees.
“The project mainly aims to increase water security and ensure the stability of our operations, putting ArcelorMittal Tubarão at the forefront of water management, with an appropriate strategy for future adaptation to climate change”, explains Jorge Luiz Ribeiro de Oliveira, VP, Flat Carbon Operations.

“The process will not cause significant environmental impacts. It consists of collecting sea water and transforming it into industrial water using the reverse osmosis process, a technology already established and applied in many countries, including Israel, Spain, Australia, Argentina and the USA. This project will also be of great value for future development of skilled labour in the country, with the technology being accessible to train technicians and engineers at the local academy”, explains Jorge Luiz. 

According to Jorge Luiz, it is a unique project in terms of plant configuration, the large volume of sea water it will process, the quality of desalinised water it will produce and the fact that the water’s destination will be a large integrated plant.

The investment, worth BRL 50 million (approximately USD 13,4 million), will include all the necessary infrastructure to: collect and filter sea water, desalinise it via reverse osmosis and then store and distribute that water. The plant will be installed close to ArcelorMittal Tubarão’s thermoelectric power plants and will occupy an area of approximately 6,000 m², making it the largest desalination plant in the country. Although its initial capacity will be 500 m³/hour (12,000 m³/day), it will have the potential to be expanded.

The brine (liquid with a higher concentration of salts after separation) will be returned to the sea through the return channel used by ArcelorMittal Tubarão’s existing cooling equipment, i.e. the condensers in its thermoelectric plants. 

The energy to be consumed in the desalination process (about 3MW) will be produced by ArcelorMittal Tubarão itself and represents less than 1% of its total energy generation. The environmental licensing process for the project has already begun at Instituto Estadual de Meio Ambiente (Iema), and the reference term (RT) and environmental control plan (ECP) are being created.
ArcelorMittal Tubarão’s project implementation studies include today’s best technologies and suppliers in the world. The research, undertaken over the course of two years, had the participation of ArcelorMittal’s Research and Development Centre and included researchers from Brazil and Spain (Asturias). 
With an already high level of freshwater recirculation (about 97.8% in 2017), ArcelorMittal Tubarão is also developing other initiatives in line with the government’s water strategy and the State Water Resources Plan. Initiatives being developed include: 

  • Studies with the Government of Espírito Santo state, through Cesan – to use treated sewage in industrial use. 
  • A project to recover springs in the Santa Maria da Vitória basin, in partnership with Santa Maria da Vitória Basin Committee, Capixaba Institute for Research, Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (Incaper), Secretariat of Environment of Espírito Santo state, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Espírito Santo state and of Santa Leopoldina region, and the administration of Santa Leopoldina city. The project, a pilot in the city of Santa Leopoldina, aims to study the best techniques to recover springs and to fence 55 springs in the Crubixá region.