March 24, 2021
Actual Plant Verification and Patent Application Completed for the "AI for Optimal Operation of Water Treatment" for DX and Decarbonization
—AI Smart Operation of RO Membranes Can Reduce Costs by 40% and CO2 Emissions—
Kurita Water Industries Ltd. (Nakano-ku, Tokyo; President; Michiya Kadota;hereinafter "Kurita") and Fracta Leap Inc. (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo;CEO ; Yasuhiro Kitabayashi ; hereinafter "Fracta Leap"), two companies taking on the challenge of digital transformation (DX) in the water treatment industry, have successfully developed their first AI optimal operation solution under their joint "Meta-Aqua Project*1." After successfully completing a verification test at an actual plant, they also applied for a patent. The solution is designed to simultaneously reduce operating costs and CO2 emissions (electrical consumption and so on) by optimizing the operation of RO membrane systems*2, which account for a high percentage of costs and electrical consumption in water treatment, based on historical data, using artificial intelligence (AI).
A test to verify the solution at an actual plant was carried out from December 2020, and demonstrated that AI optimal operation indeed reduced electrical consumption, as shown in figs. 1 and 2. Taking into account the less frequency for maintenance, these results show that operating cost and CO2 emissions can be expected to decrease by approximately 40% and 10% respectively compared to the conventional operating methods. Encouraged by this successful result, Kurita Water Industries and Fracta Leap jointly applied for a patent for the solution at the end of February 2021.
The companies plan to commercialize the solution by the end of fiscal 2021. (They plan to proceed with demonstration tests aimed at more precisely measuring the effectiveness of the solution and developing conditions for its application, which includes operation in different water treatment process, in preparation for commercialization.) In addition, a series of AI optimization solutions for water treatment are being developed under the Meta-Aqua Project. The two companies plan to offer combined services that bundle the solutions and provide value in the form of cost reduction, decarbonization through DX and more to customers in Japan and overseas. In particular, the two companies aim to realize smartification (digitalization and optimization) of entire water treatment plants by bringing various equipment in the pre-treatment of RO membrane systems into the realm of AI optimal operation.
The achievements of this project are the results of Kurita and Fracta Leap complementing each other's knowledge and expertise in water treatment and operation management technologies and digital technologies. Building on their close relationship of cooperation, the two companies are committed to promoting more data-driven businesses. In addition, Fracta Leap, which has been leading the technology and product development of this project, is actively recruiting professional personnel such as data scientists, back-end engineers, and product managers, and expects to build a team of approximately 30 to 40 employees over the next two years.
Kurita Group considers climate change issue that needs to be addressed on a global scale. We are committed to creating shared value with society by transforming the solutions we provide customers into more low carbon solutions based on the results of this project.
[Figure 1: Overview of the water treatment process used for the actual plant verification test and issues to be addressed]
[Figure 2: Overview of the results of the actual plant verification test using AI optimal operation of the RO membrane system]
- *1"Meta-Aqua Project": A joint project between Kurita Water Industries and Fracta Leap launched in 2020 with the aim of radically improving productivity through digital technology for the sustainability of water treatment infrastructure. The project promotes smartification of water treatment and operation management that mainly use AI and IoT technologies. For details, please refer to the press release of the launch in August 2020.(https://www.kurita.co.jp/english/aboutus/press200820.html)
- *2Reverse osmosis (RO) membrane system: The RO membrane is used for removing ions and organic matter from water. The equipment is mainly used in the fields of ultrapure water production that is essential for the manufacture of semiconductors and LCDs, wastewater reclamation in various commercial factories, and seawater desalination plants. The operation of the system needs water pumps to put high pressure on raw water so it permeates the RO membrane; thus, curbing the power consumption, which is one of the most important issues in water treatment. At the plant where the verification test was conducted, the system accounted for approximately 60% of the total power consumption of the entire line.
Overview of Kurita Water Industries Ltd.
|Company Name||Kurita Water Industries Ltd.|
|Location||10-1, Nakano 4-chome, Nakano-ku, Tokyo|
|President and Representative Director||Michiya Kadota|
|Business Areas||Manufacture and sale of water treatment chemicals and water treatmentfacilities, maintenance of water treatmentfacilities, supply of ultrapure water, and soil and groundwater remediation|
Overview of Fracta Leap Inc.
|Company Name||Fracta Leap Inc.|
|Established||May 2020 (established as a subsidiary of Fracta Inc., a US AI startup)|
|Locations||Tokyo Office: 2-14, Takadanobaba 3-chome, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Kawasaki Office & Laboratory: Main Building, KBIC, 7-7 Shin-Kawasaki, Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa
|Business Areas||Development of technologies and products which contribute to solving social infrastructure problems related to water treatment|