Water Reuse to Help Taiwan's Industrial Needs | Fluence
semiconductor wafer

A 12-inch (300 mm) wafer inside a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company fab. As wafer size increases, so does the need for water.

Taiwan industrialists have been pressing government officials to adopt water reuse in order to ensure a stable water supply in the future. Water demand already is high across the island nation, but industry — particularly electronics manufacturing — will continue to need more and more.

The nation had its worst drought in roughly 67 years in early 2015.

Water Reuse

Reclaimed water from manufacturing will be treated for reuse by industry with government support through legislation and investment.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs passed the Reclaimed Water Resources Development Act in late 2015. Under its provisions, organizations using more than 300 tons a day of water must use what it calls “systematic reclaimed water” to protect domestic water supplies.

Taiwan plans to invest 15.2 billion New Taiwan Dollars (US$465.8 million) in wastewater reuse plants to specifically supply industrial users, part of a larger master plan to solidify the nation’s water supply.

The plan includes converting six water treatment plants for water reuse. The first two tenders will be a plant in Kaohsiung with a capacity of 70,000 cubic meters a day, and a second project Yongkang, Tainan, with a capacity of 15,000 cubic meters a day. Construction will be financed through a public-private partnership.

The other plants are to be constructed between 2016 and 2021 in Fongshanxi, Futian, Yongkang, Linhai, Anping, and Fengyuan.

The ministry stated:

More and more scientific evidence shows that climate change is resulting in extreme weather […] what we have observed in Taiwan: extremely dry days and heavily rainy days are both increasing. […] These are all unfavorable for water resource development.

Growing Reliance on Reclaimed Water

Officials estimate 10 percent — or roughly 1.32 million tons a day — of the nation’s public water supply will be from reclaimed sources by 2031.

One of the problems hindering wider adoption of water reuse has been the price of water. With inexpensive water supplies, industrial users have had little incentive to explore water reuse, according to Water World.

The ministry estimates that industrial water costs an average of NT$11 a ton. Treatments such as softening and ultrafiltration can push the cost to as much as NT$30 per ton. Based on the ministry’s calculations, the price of reclaimed water should be similar to that of current domestic tap water prices.

Ultrapure Water for Electronics Manufacture

The nation also has a pressing need for ultrapure water to support a seemingly unquenchable demand by its semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industries. Produced ultrapure water is used in each stage of seminconductor manufacturing. As the surface area of wafers increases, water use could increase to between 4.5 to 9 million gallons a day.

In America, the Facilities 450 mm Consortium (F450C), a partnership at the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute, wants to design and build next-generation 450 mm computer chip fabrication facilities. It will be vital for these plants to incorporate water reuse and saving technologies. Ben Peek, president and chief executive officer of Peek & Associates and a F450C project architect, explains:

Understanding the effluent side of semiconductor process tools is becoming more and more important as each step of the semiconductor technology roadmap is achieved. […] Today’s state-of-the-art 300 mm fabs use between 2 and 4 million gallons of water per day. When dealing with these volumes of water, even small percentage recoveries are important.

Image courtesy Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd., used with permission.