BMW's Steyr plant in Munich is the company's first to produce zero wastewater. No, they didn't shut the factory down (about 60 percent of all BMW engines are still made there), but they did shut the mains drainage connection for operating waste water from the Production area at the end of last year. They can do this because all wastewater from the plant is fed back into the production system, saving about 30 million liters (almost 8 million US gallons) a year. The nanotechnology details are available in the press release after the jump, but basically there are some serious filters that remove particulates and oils and other unwanted debris, and turn wastewater into process water without chemicals. The result for the rest of us? Since 2000, "the use of process water in the [BMW] group has fallen by a quarter for each vehicle produced."
BMW GROUP LEADS THE WAY IN WASTE-WATER-FREE PRODUCTION IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY
BMW Engine Plant in Steyr ensures sustainable environmental protection.
Munich/Steyr. The BMW Group is working on continually improving its protection of the environment in its worldwide production network, with the motto "Clean Production". One of the most important milestones in this respect has been achieved in the BMW engine plant in Steyr through the application of a completely new process and waste water concept. Using a new combination of various membrane technologies, all manufacturing waste water in the plant is treated and fed back into the production system. The result: the mains drainage connection for operating waste water from the Production area was closed at the end of 2006, which means that around 30 million litres of water will be saved each year.
Water is used to create an emulsion with coolants for milling and turning, and for washing or rinsing during the finishing of cylinder heads, crank cases, crank shafts and connecting rods. Even in the BMW engine plant in Steyr, which produces around 60% of all BMW engines, water is an element that cannot be replaced by anything. However, using considerable technical skill, it can be treated. A waste water treatment system using nanofiltration technology was introduced back in 2003. "This system produced such convincing results that we decided on the ambitious objective of further improving our waste water treatment so that in the future we would be able to introduce a completely enclosed water cycle for production", says Franz Hornbachner, responsible for planning what is called 'fluid technology', talking about the moment when the idea of waste-water-free production was born.
This objective became a reality at the beginning of the year. Through a combination of ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis and evaporator systems, waste water is transformed back into valuable process water - using purely physical methods, without the addition of any chemicals. The waste water goes through three stages. Firstly, oil residues are removed from the waste water by ultrafiltration. Then heavy metals and low-volatility lipophilic substances, i.e. surfactants (surface-active substances) are removed from the water by nanofiltration. In the third stage of the waste water treatment, dissolved salts and short-chain organic compounds are removed by reverse osmosis.
The BMW Group has invested around 1.5 million euro in these technologies over the last three years. The largest engine plant in the BMW Group will save 30 million litres of water a year altogether through the new technology - which is the same amount of water used on average each year by a village of 750 inhabitants. The BMW plant in Steyr is thus not only easing the burden on the environment, but is also saving a considerable amount on sewage charges.
At the same time, the Steyr water cycle is an example of the Clean Production philosophy of the BMW Group, which aims always to implement the most sustainable production methods at each site. The individual solutions introduced at sites to handle water as a resource make a massive difference overall: since the year 2000, the use of process water in the group has fallen by a quarter for each vehicle produced.
Clean Production in the BMW Group
The BMW Group has a long tradition of environmental protection: in 1973, the company was the first automobile manufacturer in the world to create the Group "Environmental Protection" function, with far-reaching overall responsibilities. In signing the United Nations "Cleaner Production" environmental declaration in 2001, the company once again confirmed its commitment to implementing environmental protection in its production facilities.
Today, around 70 employees worldwide work in the BMW Group's environmental protection organisation. At all its locations, environmental management systems, which go far beyond what is required by law, guarantee environmental protection within the company's operations. The BMW Group was the first automobile manufacturer worldwide, in 1999, to certify all its production locations uniformly in accordance with international environmental management standards.
Further information is also available at www.bmwgroup.com/production, www.bmwgroup.com/responsibility and www.bmw-werk-steyr.at