Hubert Fleming
Senior Water Advisor

“There is a common belief that there isn’t enough water. But there is almost always water available. It’s just a matter of how you source it.”

Hu Fleming of Worley.

Hubert Fleming (Hu) works as a Senior Advisor for water projects across the globe. He is immersed in water strategies for some of the world’s most water-intensive mines and industrial facilities.

“I love implementing new ideas,” he says. “Our water teams are working on exciting initiatives every day, from water recycling to reuse to climate adaptation.

“The backdrop to almost every project is climate change. Extreme weather causes huge swings in water availability. We help our customers respond to these scenarios through water resource management, climate modelling, flood management, surface water, and groundwater storage.

“These projects may sound complex,” laughs Hu. “But they are an opportunity to help our customers make better use of water and lead their industries. And this reputation for water stewardship is key to the future viability of their operations.”

The evolution of water management

Hu has been involved in pioneering water technologies throughout his four-decade career in water management and infrastructure development. And he has also seen how new innovations can transform water strategies all over the world.

“I completed my PhD in chemical engineering just over four decades ago, and it’s been fascinating to see the water landscape change over time.

Hubert wearing PPE and helmet outside near a big lake.

“Early in my career, I took an interest in membrane-based water treatment, including the first large-scale desalination plants. These are much more commonplace today, particularly in water-stressed locations like Chile. I also developed membrane-based bioreactors for wastewater treatment, which became the basis for water reuse across the globe.

“These approaches transformed the water footprint of large industrial projects. And with water now a critical consideration in heavy industries, water technologies and approaches are developing at a rapid rate.”

Water and the energy transition

Hubert appreciates the range of water scenarios that energy, chemicals and resources producers are facing. But the urgency of water challenges in one sector stands above the rest.

“Water is a make-or-break consideration in the mining sector today, as resource shortages loom,” he says. “From battery materials, to rare earth minerals, to copper, miners need excellent water management strategies.

“An example of the challenge ahead is the volume of water lithium miners need for the batteries we rely on today. And this challenge could increase tenfold when you consider how much more water lithium miners will need to meet demand in a net zero scenario.”

Hu standing amongst rocks and snow.

With the close links between water availability and decarbonization targets, Hubert predicts that industrial water projects won’t exist in isolation in the future.

“The work our teams are doing today won’t be treated as water projects,” he says. “They are societal projects. Hydrogen projects are about generating clean energy, but water is indispensable to that process. And the work we’re doing in Saudi Arabia is to create a sustainable city, rather than execute a pure desalination project.

“The common thread is that water is fundamental to large societal or industrial projects, in every region. And I’m proud to create water strategies that enable our customers to become better water stewards, improve their operations, and meet their sustainability targets.”

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