As the energy and process industries mobilize behind ambitious decarbonization targets, another issue deserves urgent action: the world’s growing water scarcity. As the United Nations note, water and climate change are inextricably linked — and with extreme weather events, an already stretched-thin water supply is becoming more scarce and more polluted. This doesn’t just endanger the 2 billion people who live without clean drinking water; it also impacts the food supply, sustainable development and energy security.
Water and the energy transition are also closely linked. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the global energy system accounted for approximately 10% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals in 2021. In its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, those withdrawals decrease by nearly 20 billion bcm the next seven years, with the most significant drop driven by a shift from coal-fired power generation to wind and solar PV. However, water consumption actually increases under this scenario due to the high water demands of producing bioenergy. Other energy transition priorities — including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), clean hydrogen and nuclear — are also water-intensive. The IEA’s pathway to net zero anticipates that hydrogen will account for about 5% of the energy industry’s freshwater consumed by 2030. With different net zero strategies impacting the world’s water supply in different ways, now is the time to ensure decarbonization efforts do not exacerbate water scarcity.
In today’s new energy era, water conservation is an essential aspect of any comprehensive sustainability strategy. Reducing water consumption doesn’t just lower operating expenditures amid increasing water costs; it also strengthens energy security and supports the rapid deployment of clean energy technologies that will power our industry’s sustainable future. At John Crane, we’ve devoted the last century to water stewardship. We’re taking this technology leadership to new heights to help our customers achieve their net zero goals without depleting our world’s freshwater.
A Legacy of Water Stewardship
It’s been nearly 100 years since John Crane pioneered the first mechanical seal. Since then, our technologies have consistently reduced water consumption in some of the world’s toughest, most resource-intensive operations. We’re committed to protecting our planet’s resources through world-changing engineering solutions and services that meet the needs of our industry’s future. Water stewardship is critical to realizing this vision and charting the most sustainable path to net zero.
Without a large-scale, concerted water conservation effort, the IEA estimates that the water sector’s energy use will more than double by 2040. Its analysis highlights the importance of reducing water loss through leaks and bursts — an area that John Crane has pioneered for more than a century. Seals with no flow controls can easily consume two to three gallons of seal water per minute. At the same time, seal water issues cause nearly 60% of seal failures. Our innovative solutions address these critical challenges by optimizing seal water flow and, in some cases, completely eliminating the need for water-intensive cooling systems. Operators trust John Crane’s solutions to reduce energy consumption and enhance reliability. Our strength is simplifying complex systems for maximum efficiency.
To meet the needs of the energy transition, we’re applying our proven technologies and services to the complex challenges of hydrogen production, CCUS and other water-intensive vehicles for decarbonization. Our critical pump applications reduce water waste across the CCUS value chain, while our filtration solutions enhance efficiency as they ensure media fulfills the quality requirements of each end use. When a leak or other issue does arise, our extensive service network responds rapidly to curb water waste.
As we help operators enhance their efficiency today, we are equally committed to developing solutions to meet tomorrow’s challenges. There is nothing more mission-critical than ensuring our industry’s decarbonization progress is not offset by unsustainable levels of water consumption.
Innovative Rotating Equipment Solutions for Reducing Water Consumption
With a decades-long track record for helping mission-critical operations reduce water consumption, John Crane is uniquely qualified to shape our industry’s sustainable future. Our solutions are market-ready, proven to decrease water use and supported by our unparalleled service network.
Upstream Pumping Seal Face Technology
John Crane’s Upstream Pumping seal face technology represents a breakthrough in liquid sealing. By replacing a conventional mechanical seal with this low-volume, high-pressure seal face technology, operators can increase the pump’s mean time between repair (MTBR) and significantly reduce energy usage.
This innovative technology nearly eliminates cooling water requirements and removes the need for a high-pressure water line, all while extending mechanical seal life and lowering the total cost of ownership. Because fluid does not leak into the air, our Upstream Pumping Seal Face Technology also supports key decarbonization goals.
John Crane Diamond® Seal Face Technology
John Crane Diamond® seal face technology reduces friction, wear and water consumption. The technology’s low friction qualities significantly decrease cooling water requirements; in one case, that saved a customer 2.1 million gallons of water per year. Its low heat generation also reduces CO2 emissions, making it a powerful solution for operations ready to achieve their sustainability goals while maximizing reliability and cost savings.
Seal Water Control Systems
John Crane’s advanced monitoring and control technologies equip operations to optimize reliability, uptime and energy efficiency as they reduce seal water usage. The difference is especially apparent when operators make the switch from conventional ball valves with no mechanisms for monitoring flush rates.
John Crane’s Safeunit™ and Safeunit™Ultima technologies monitor and control seal water flow and pressure, reducing seal water by up to 80%. Compatible with packing and mechanical seals, these solutions can also predict seal and packing failures — giving operators a critical advantage in both reliability and water consumption. Safeunit Ultima is designed to stand up to the requirements of harsh operating environments.
Our Smartflow and Smartflow IG intelligent seal water control systems automatically adjust to new operating conditions such as alternating pressure and temperature. Through these intelligent optimizations, the system only uses seal water when a seal truly requires cooling. In doing so, it saves as much as 97% of seal water when compared to flow meter-regulated control systems.
Accelerate Your Energy Transition With John Crane
In the energy and process industries, water is required for nearly every aspect of operations. By reducing water consumption, we can shape a sustainable future for our planet and industry alike, using technologies that are readily available today. As we mobilize behind net zero targets, water conservation must be incorporated into new energy strategies.
Whether you’re a pulp and paper plant or a renewable hydrogen producer, John Crane has the market-ready solutions you need to minimize leaks, maximize energy efficiency and achieve your sustainability goals. We’re also investing heavily in the seal of the future, equipping you to meet future challenges with reliability, safety and efficiency at the core. Contact our experts today to discover how a legacy of technology leadership, innovative solutions and service excellence can accelerate your new energy progress.