Many water companies have been recognising the benefits provided by the introduction of process automation solutions for some time now. However, industrial wastewater treatment plants have been slower to adopt this technology.
In our latest blog, Niels Tiemessen, product expert and business developer at Royal HaskoningDHV, explores some of the benefits associated with the introduction of automation.
In its simplest form, automation can mitigate operational risks for industrial wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs):
With the exploding energy prices and increased cost of chemicals and sludge disposal, operators have seen the cost of wastewater treatment rise sharply. However, advanced process automation can reduce energy costs by up to 20% and chemical costs by up to 15%, which in turn, also leads to a more sustainable process. With the upcoming revision of the European Framework Directive on Urban Wastewater, more stringent discharge limits are to be expected. In particular, the removal of substances of very high concerns (SVHC) like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This potentially means adding extra complexity to the wastewater treatment plant, which in turn, requires more attention from operators to keep the systems up and running. These new discharge limits could lead to non-compliance, threatening primary production, with the WWTP needing a license to operate.
On the brighter side, there is also sustainability gain to be made through the optimisation of biogas production, with an increase up to 50%. The gas can be desulphurised and used on site for cogeneration, in some cases providing more than a quarter of the heat demand required for the total plant.
When you are looking at water treatment in the paper industry, for chemical companies or the food industry, you need to be more aware of the variations in type and degree of pollution. This means that the software must be more flexible and will require customisation. Only a fully holistic solution, that takes all process steps and their relations into consideration, will lead to the best result and not just optimisation of one process or asset.
Our virtual operator, Twinn Aqua Suite builds on over 140 years of deep domain knowledge and uses logic, soft sensors and artificial intelligence to optimise the WWTP 24/7. This includes setpoints for parameters like throughput, pressure, airflow, dosing or temperature. While industrial wastewater treatment is substantially different from treating municipal wastewater – as there are greater variations to contend with and less predictability – with the continuous innovations and new insights into process control, automation can still make a huge difference to a plant’s performance.