Beverage, chemical processing, mining and minerals, power, pharmaceutical, metals and mining, transportation – what do all of these industries have in common? Water is an integral part of their production process. The purity and conservation of that water is of constant concern to industry. GE Water and Process Technologies know it has a solution.
A division of GE Infrastructure, Water and Process Technologies integrates the worldwide chemical, equipment and service capabilities of Betz, Osmonics and Glegg in the treatment of water and process systems. Its specialty chemicals, membranes, filters and purification equipment help industrial, commercial and institutional customers reduce costs and meet operational and environmental goals. “We purify water, protect against corrosion, deposits and fouling, prepare waste materials for safe disposal, control dust and odors, and improve productivity and product quality,” says George Oliver, president and CEO of GE’s water technologies division. “With more than 5,000 employees in 50 countries, and backed by over 100 years of technological experience, we can solve problems quickly to provide customers with a great value.”
Water is the lifeblood of industry and has a significant impact on profitability; take, for instance, a cooling tower. “We service cooling towers across an array of heavy industries” says Oliver. “A cooling tower – say it can recycle water two to three times. If we can treat the water in such a way where it can be reused eight to 10 times, it’s more economical all the way around.”
GE Water and Process Technologies’ worldwide headquarters is located in Trevose, Pa., just north of Philadelphia. Its equipment division, Osmonics, is located in Minnetonka, Minn. More than 2,200 field engineers bring their expertise to companies around the world. The company is also backed by the technological genius of more than 7,000 GE scientists in research centers around the world who employ the science that has propelled the company forward for decades. “What’s really exciting about this business is we complement a lot of the other GE products and there is a great degree of synergy,” says Oliver.
Currently 65 percent of the revenue from Water and Process Technologies is generated in the Americas, 25 percent in Europe, Middle East, and Africa and 10 percent in Asia. “We’re seeing significant growth throughout the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and China,” assures Oliver.
Go With the Flow
GE’s market research confirmed it was dealing with an industry grossing $360 billion annually. With stakes like that, GE was dedicated to changing the game. “We looked specifically at $40 billion of the water and process industry, segments where we thought we could make a significant difference,” says Oliver. “We then started on a mission to becoming recognized as the world’s best supplier of engineered chemical and mechanical treatment programs for water and process systems.”
To create its Water and Process Technologies division, GE acquired three companies. The first was BetzDearborn in April 2002 – a solid business with about a billion dollars in revenue. It became the foundation of GE Water and Process Technologies. Another acquisition, Osmonics, a membrane filtration company, was purchased in February 2003. Rounding out the group was a company within GE’s Energy platform, Glegg, which was rolled into the water division and completed the venture. Water and Process Technologies is now the largest in a key group of GE businesses that comprise its Infrastructure business: Security, Sensing and Fanuc.
Optimizing water and process systems, safeguarding assets, protecting the environment, recycling and conserving energy were of extreme interest to GE. “We saw a significant amount of growth if we were able to provide solutions. If you look at the planet – we’re headed on a path to consume more water than is available in the coming years. Twenty percent of water is consumed by industry alone and 75 percent of that is wasted along the consumption path. That need is only going to increase. Unfortunately, most of the water available to us is salinated, or seawater, and needs treatment before use. We saw a huge opportunity for our research, productions and processes to go to work here and we knew we needed to provide new solutions fast.”
The company is razor focused on the most vital water issues industries face. Desalination is probably the biggest – taking seawater and converting it to fresh water in an economical way. “Our advanced membrane technology and energy recovery devices work here to achieve the job and keep costs down,” says Oliver. GE also saw a huge opportunity in the area of protection of water supplies and treatment against pathogens. Plant optimization is another area in which the company provides solutions. Using online digital radiography principles from GE’s healthcare business, GE is able to treat against corrosion, keeping systems clean and protecting company assets.
One example of how GE Water and Process Technologies is excelling in its newly tapped market is its boiler treatment programs is tailored to a customer’s specific systems to help eliminate existing problems, improve heat transfer, extend boiler equipment life, reduce operating costs, and improve return on investment.
GE Water and Process Technologies was asked to begin treating the boilers at an Indian power plant to minimize corrosion and deposition while increasing cycles of concentration for more efficient operations. To meet the challenge, feedwater was treated to control dissolved oxygen. Using condensate treatment helped ensure that the condensate pH was in the desirable range for good condensate protection. A dispersant, a second-generation high temperature polymer, released phosphate into the boiler drum, which was necessary for coordinated control. An important objective of polymer treatment is to prevent any deposits on the boiler surfaces. The result was clear: the boilers are currently being operated at an average of 200 cycles of concentration, well above their program design of 100 cycles. This operation at high cycles of concentration yields substantial savings through reduced water losses and higher fuel efficiencies. The annual net savings total is $43,000.
GE Water and Process Technologies seems to be on its way. “Others have tried to make it in this space and have failed,” says Oliver. “What makes us unique is we’re intensely focused on developing new technologies around the key modalities that benefit customers. We’ve also been very successful in developing service models and want to do everything we can to enhance how our customers make money.”
So successful is GE Water and Process Technologies that its growth rate is two to three times what it was at the start. “That’s being achieved through new technologies and by creating a platform for those new technologies,” says Oliver. “We’re very strong in technology, people, engineering talent, and this area just plays very well to GE’s strengths. It’s about proof, not promises. We’ve set a standard for excellence and accountability that our customers can count on, providing documented proof that their profitability goals have been met. It is the driving force of customer value generation, and the best possible demonstration of our capabilities and dedication.”