Industrial steam systems and the energy-water nexus

Michael E. Walker*, Zhen Lv, Eric Masanet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This paper presents estimates for water consumption and steam generation within U.S. manufacturing industries. These estimates were developed through the integration of detailed, industry-level fuel use and operation data with an engineering-based steam system model. The results indicate that industrial steam systems consume approximately 3780 TBTU/yr (3.98 × 109 GJ/yr) to generate an estimated 2.9 trillion lb/yr (1.3 trillion kg/yr) of steam. Since a good portion of this steam is injected directly into plant processes, vented, leaked, or removed via blowdown, roughly 354 MGD of freshwater must be introduced to these systems as makeup. This freshwater consumption rate is approximately 11% of that for the entire U.S. manufacturing sector, or the total residential consumption rate of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. The majority of this consumption (>94%) can be attributed to the food, paper, petroleum refining, and chemicals industries. The results of the analyses presented herein provide previously unavailable detail on water consumption in U.S. industrial steam systems and highlight opportunities for combined energy and water savings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13060-13067
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 19 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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