DIGITILISATION TAKES PRESSURE OFF THE WATER INDUSTRY
Traditional water and wastewater utility systems were not built for the dramatically changing stresses of climate change and rapid urbanisation. Therefore the risk that ageing infrastructure brings – both in terms of potential failure and poor environmental compliance – is a key concern for water utilities around the world.
There is increasing pressure on utility companies to lower their total cost of ownership and high leakage rates. By combining smart monitoring technology with drives and motors, water utility operators can secure pre-emptive asset management optimisation and in the process, drive a significant shift from reactive to real-time monitoring.
Nearly a third of all electric motors in the world are driven by variable speed drives, mainly to reduce energy use. However there are other reasons for employing drives in water and wastewater applications, including process control (keeping constant water pressure, thus avoiding leakage caused by high pressure), avoiding water hammer, or optimised well exploitation. Drives can perform pump cleaning in wastewater applications and control several pumps in a cascade system to optimise pump operations and save energy.
Condition-based monitoring services can work alongside all these water automation products to gain access to real-time data via te cloudfrom remotely located water assets. At the heart of this approach is a new generation of wireless smart sensors – a low cost, easy to install digital solution.
Smart sensors have revolutionised the maintenance logistics of motors by enabling operators to use remote monitoring for early problem detection. Now, maintenance actions can be cost-effectively planned before functional failure. The result is reduced downtime, optimal maintenance and eliminating unexpected production stops.
With built-in intelligence for live, adaptive behaviour, the technology assists in managing the effects of extreme weather conditions such as excess rainfall that poses problems from water quality to environmental compliance. In addition, the digital solution allows experts to analyse data collected from the sensors and turn it into corrective actions to extend equipment lifetime. It is possible to analyse and decipher the best solution for improving the operation of water and wastewater assets, from a single pump station to an entire water or wastewater treatment facility.
Sensors can also turn traditional pumps into smart, wirelessly connected devices. This approach measures vibration and temperature from the surface of the pump and uses it to develop insight into the pump’s condition and performance. Smart sensors attached to the motors connected to the pumps can detect a drop in water flow based on the output power of the motor. Digitilisation also extends to variable speed drives and drive data can be uploaded to the cloud via a remote monitoring solution.
The water utility sector has made great strides in the uptake of digital technology, however there is still plenty of scope for improvement. Because technology has evolved and the prices of smart devices have decreased, it is possible to take a great leap forward to achieve a true digital transformation.