Airbus utilises processed water and cooling systems to help the environment

Airbus utilises processed water and cooling systems to help the environment

How water is treated, moved and disposed of has a significant effect on the environment, which is why Airbus facilities in Germany and France are utilising alternative water sources and technologies as part of the company’s blue5 initiative to further improve its eco-efficiency.

7 June 2011 Feature story

At Airbus’ Hamburg-Finkenwerder facility in Germany, water from the nearby Elbe River is diverted into a water treatment plant by two submerged pumps – allowing Airbus to cover more than 30 per cent of its water requirements using this natural source. Once purified and transformed, the processed water helps conserve drinking water.

Processed water also is used at the plant for fire fighting, to water green spaces and in its paint hangars – where exhaust air scrubbers use nearly two-thirds processed water to remove dust and paint particles. At the Finkenwerder washing facility for cars and heavy good vehicles (HGVs), processed water also keeps vehicles looking brand new. With the aid of bacteria in a biological wastewater treatment plant, dirty washing water is cleaned and returned to start another circuit for washing more vehicles.

Such environmental awareness also can be found at Airbus’ headquarters in Toulouse, France, where the replacement of cooling systems has enabled water conservation while further protecting employees’ health. 

There are 20 cooling towers in Toulouse, which include both single- and dual-systems. Initially, when a conventional open cooling tower was operating, the cooling or process water would flow directly across its heat transfer surfaces. As air flows into the tower, up to 70 per cent would evaporate and cool the remaining water, which is then fed back into the system.

The potential creation of dangerous bacteria in the hot, humid cooling towers prompted Airbus to switch from conventional cooling towers to so-called adiabatic cooling systems such as the Trillium series dry cooler, which is equipped with special air evaporation pre-coolers.

Their introduction has significantly reduced water consumption from between 20 and 80 per cent, depending on the type and application – making threats like biocides and algaecides – along with anti-lime agents – a thing of the past.