Ensuring that necessary dredging mantains water quality!

07/07/2014

Last winter brought unprecedented weather conditions both in Ireland and Britain. In the Read-out offices we were hit by a thunder and lightening storm which played havoc with our electronic equipment and elsewhere in the region the rough seas did incredible damage. In the south-west of England the farms and homes in the Somerset Levels and Moors, a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, was severely hit with incredible flooding. Indeed the effects of this will be felt in the area for many years to come.

levels

This shows the incredible extent of last winter’s flooding with superimposed map showing location of the Somerset Levels and Moors.

A special monitoring system is helping protect water quality on the Somerset Levels and Moors where a major dredging operation is under way following this severe flooding. The system, which was supplied by OTT Hydrometry and installed by Wavelength Environmental, is designed to protect the river ecology by issuing email alerts if water quality deteriorates beyond pre-set conditions. Any such alerts would immediately be relayed to the project team and an assessment of conditions would then be undertaken, so that working practices can be reviewed and continued.

The flood caused extensive damage to properties in the area and many residents had to leave their homes.  Approximately 170 homes and businesses were affected. The Environment Agency estimated there were more than 65 million cubic metres of floodwater covering an area of 65 square kilometres.

Dredgers commenced work at the end of March 2014

Dredgers commenced work at the end of March 2014

On Monday 31st March 2014, three months after the flooding began, dredging work started on the banks of the river Parrett between Burrowbridge and Moorland, just a few minutes from Junction 24 of the M5 in the south west of England. Costing £1 million per mile, 5 miles of river bank will be dredged (3 miles of the river Parrett and 2 miles of the river Tone), based on restoring the river channels to their 1960’s profile and improving their drainage capability.

In recent years, an accumulation of sediment has narrowed the river channel and this is believed to be just one of the reasons for the severe flooding that took place. A network of mobile real-time water quality monitors is therefore being deployed to continuously monitor water quality upstream and downstream of the dredgers. This work complements the Environment Agency’s wider environmental monitoring.

Adcon Telemetry plus Hydrolab WQ sonde.

Adcon Telemetry plus Hydrolab WQ sonde.

The monitors consist of Hydrolab water quality ‘sondes’ and Adcon telemetry systems which transmit near-live data during the dredging operation that is due to run until the Winter of 2014. The monitors are anchored to the river bed and suspended in the river by means of two small buoys. Each sonde is fitted with sensors for the measurement of dissolved oxygen (DO), ammonium, temperature, pH, conductivity and turbidity. A short cable connects each sonde to an Adcon telemetry unit on the bank, which transmits data via GPRS every 10 minutes. The sondes contain internal dataloggers, however the transmitted data is available to project staff in near real-time via a web-based data portal. If water quality meets the pre-set alert conditions (for temperature, dissolved oxygen or ammonium), email messages are issued via the telemetry units. It is important to note that poor water quality can be caused by a number of factors including low flow levels and high nutrient levels arising from many sources in the area.

Downstream monitoring!

Downstream monitoring!

The project plan has allowed for up to eight dredging teams, and the monitors are being installed approximately 50 metres upstream and 100-150 meters downstream of the dredgers – to allow sufficient mixing.

Simon Browning from Wavelength Environmental has been monitoring the data from the sondes and says: “The monitors are quick and easy to deploy, and have performed very well; however, portability is extremely important because the instruments have to be moved and redeployed as the dredging work proceeds.

“We have also started fitting GPS units to the telemetry systems so that we can keep track of the monitoring locations. This is important because each dredging team is constantly moving, so the monitors have to be moved regularly.”

Matthew Ellison, a telemetry specialist from OTT Hydrometry, was delighted to be involved in this high profile project and recommended the Adcon systems because they are extremely small and therefore portable, and have been designed to run on very low power, which means they can be left to run in remote locations for extended periods of time with just a small solar panel.

In January, Owen Paterson, the Environmental Secretary of State in England, asked for a 20 year Action Plan to be developed to look at the various options for the sustainable management of flood risk on the Somerset Levels and Moors. The plan is supported by a £10m investment from the Department for Transport with a further £500k from the Department for Communities and Local Government, on top of the £10m previously announced by the British Prime Minister. The plan has been published and is available here on the Somerset County Council website!

Whilst the plan recognises that it will not be possible to stop flooding completely, it has 6 key objectives:

  1. Reduce the frequency, depth and duration of flooding.
  2. Maintain access for communities and businesses.
  3. Increase resilience to flooding for families, agriculture, businesses, communities, and wildlife.
  4. Make the most of the special characteristics of the Somerset Levels and Moors (the internationally important biodiversity, environment and cultural heritage).
  5. Ensure strategic transport connectivity, both within Somerset and through the county to the South West peninsula.
  6. Promote business confidence and growth.

“Dredging is one of the one things the local community has really been pressing for and people are going to check the Environment Agency is doing the work properly. The water quality monitoring undertaken by the mobile monitors and by our own static monitors will help provide assurance that the environment is not compromised by this work,” said Graham Quarrier for the Environment Agency.


Keeping all Welsh air good!

25/06/2014
Air quality monitors track pollution hot-spots

Situated in the south west of Wales, in a largely rural area bordering the Brecon Beacons, Carmarthenshire’s air quality is predominantly good. However, there are areas of concern where major roads pass through some of the County’s larger towns, including Llanelli, Carmarthen and Llandeilo, where air quality is dominated by the effects of road traffic. The County Council is therefore testing new monitoring technologies so that it will be better able to track the effects of improvement measures.

The sensor!

The sensor!

Carmarthenshire County Council operates a network of passive diffusion tubes as part of its commitment to Local Air Quality Management under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. However, in 2013, Air Monitors supplied the Council with a new type of air quality monitor, ‘AQMesh’, that is able to provide continuous air quality readings for a range of important parameters. This new technology is small, wireless, lightweight and battery powered, which means that it can be quickly and simply mounted in almost any location.

The Council’s monitoring programme has identified Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from traffic emissions, mostly diesel vehicles, as the pollutant of greatest concern. A number of locations in the centre of Llandeilo have been shown to be in breach of European air quality standards, so an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been established in the town. Whilst NO2 levels are not sufficiently high to cause immediate health effects, the current levels could cause adverse health effects over the long term, particularly in people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

NO2 reduction by about 25µg/m3 is the main objective of the air quality action plan, but the Council is determined to ensure that all pollutants remain at safe levels, so the ability of the AQMesh to monitor a wide range of parameters (Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Temperature, Humidity and Atmospheric Pressure) is a major benefit.

Four features
Stephen Hoskin from Air Monitors says: “There are a number of important new features in AQMesh that are fundamentally changing the way that air quality is monitored; firstly, it can be located where air quality matters most – where people are breathing.

“Secondly, in comparison with large reference stations, with only a small drop in levels of accuracy, the cost of monitoring is reduced dramatically, which means that users will be able to measure air quality in more locations, and this will reduce the UK’s current dependence on modelling to ‘guesstimate’ air quality.

The unobtrusive sensor in situ!

The unobtrusive sensor in situ!

“Finally, by providing near real-time data over the internet, useful air quality data can be made available to a much wider audience via smartphones, tablets and computers.”

The AQMesh in Carmarthenshire is being operated by Oliver Matthews, one of the Council’s Environmental Health Practitioners with specific responsibility for air quality. He says: “In the past we have not continuously monitored this range of parameters because doing so would have involved the installation of a large, expensive air quality monitoring station that would have probably required planning permission.

“These reference stations offer high levels of accuracy, but come with large capital and operational costs, and cannot typically be moved, whereas the AQMesh can be quickly attached to a lamp post or other item of street furniture at a fraction of the cost.

“Alternatively, we could install passive diffusion tubes, one for each parameter of interest, but the disadvantage of this method is that the tubes are left in place for four to five weeks, so we are only provided with an average figure over that time, with no indication of the peaks and troughs that occur. For example, a recent road closure resulted in the diversion of traffic and, with the benefit of AQMesh, we were able to track a significant short-term rise in NO2.”

With the assistance of key stakeholders, the AQMA draft action plan has identified a number of options to improve air quality, and the AQMesh unit has been installed in order to help assess the success or failure of each initiative.

Interestingly, the development of the AQMA action plan benefitted from essential gas main works that were required in Llandeilo because this involved the closure of the main trunk road (Rhosmaen Street) for a period of up to three months, which provided an opportunity to identify the effects of traffic diversions on air quality.

Options that are being considered as part of the action plan include improving traffic management and seek to prevent vehicular ‘stop/start’ and promote a smooth flow of traffic. Typically, these options could include the provision of extra parking outside of the AQMA, the removal of some on-road parking within the AQMA, better parking enforcement, relocation of bus stops, reviewing pedestrian crossings and improvement of bottle necks.

Summarising Oliver says: “The network of diffusion tubes has enabled us to identify hotspots, and these are the locations at which the AQMesh will be of greatest use because we will be able to study trends and look for the causes of elevated pollution levels at specific times of the day.

“Data from the AQMesh are provided on a website via the ‘Cloud’ so, looking forward, this technology has the potential to make a major difference to air quality improvements and to the transparency and availability of data. For example, it may become possible to integrate air quality monitoring with automatic traffic management.”


Germany lowers biogas formaldehyde emissions

23/12/2013

Power generation from Germany’s enormous biogas industry produces emissions to air that are regulated by the Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control (TA Luft). As part of the approval process, the emissions from each plant have to be tested every three years. Formaldehyde is one of the pollutants of greatest concern because of its carcinogenicity and the TA Luft emission limit is 60 mg/m³. However, the German Government has also created a financial incentive scheme to encourage process managers to lower their formaldehyde emissions to below 40 mg/m³. To be eligible for the EEG (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz) scheme, plants must be tested every year.

VDI_TestSiteFormaldehyde (HCHO) can be difficult to measure in hot, wet emissions, not least because it would dissolve in condensate if the sample gas is allowed to cool. Test engineers in Germany have therefore deployed portable (DX 4000 and CX4000 from Gasmet) FTIR analyzers to measure formaldehyde, and a number of systems are currently in use across Germany.

Background
The biogas industry in Germany has grown enormously in recent years; in 1992 there were 139 biogas plants in the country, but by the end of 2013 there will be almost 8,000 with an electrical capacity of about 3,400 MW – sufficient for the energy needs of around 6.5 million households. Initially, biogas plants were built to handle the by-products of human and animal food production as well as agricultural waste, but with government incentives to generate renewable energy, farmers are now growing crops such as maize specifically for energy production.

Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion with anaerobic bacteria or fermentation of biodegradable materials. The main constituent gases are methane and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of hydrogen sulphide and water. The products of biogas combustion are mostly carbon dioxide and water, but the combustion of biogas also produces formaldehyde.

Biogas-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plants are becoming a very popular source of renewable energy in many countries because they provide a reliable, consistent source of energy in comparison with wind and solar power. In addition to the renewable energy that these plants produce; the fermentation residue is a valuable product that can be used as a fertiliser and soil conditioner for agricultural, horticultural and landscaping purposes.

Exhaust gas tests
The exhaust emissions of each biogas plant are tested every three years for substances hazardous to air quality, such as particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde. Most of these parameters can be measured on-site with portable equipment. However, in the early years and still to this day, the complexity of formaldehyde analysis has necessitated sampling and laboratory analysis – a time-consuming and costly activity.

FTIR_DX4000

FTIR_DX4000

In 2007 Wolfgang Schreier from the environmental analysis company RUK GmbH (now part of the SGS Group) started working on the use of portable FTIR gas analysers for formaldehyde analysis. The FTIR analysers are manufactured by Gasmet (Finland) and supplied in Germany by Ansyco GmbH, a Gasmet group company.

FTIR analysers are able to qualitatively and quantitatively analyse an almost endless number of gas species. However, Wolfgang Schreier says: “The Gasmet units are primarily employed for the measurement of formaldehyde, and whilst they are able to measure other parameters of interest such as CO, NOx and Methane, they are not yet certified for doing so in the emissions of biogas plants, unless an internal validation has been undertaken.

“The DX4000 proved to be the ideal instrument for this application because it samples at high temperatures (above 180 Deg C) so formaldehyde cannot dissolve in condensate, and the instrument provides sensitive, accurate, reliable real-time formaldehyde measurements – no other portable analyser is able to achieve this.

“Importantly, the DX4000 is also robust and weighing just 14kg, it is easy to transport from site to site. In addition to a heated sample line, the only other accessory is a laptop running Gasmet’s Calcmet™ software.”

In contrast with the portable FTIR, it is typical for the results of laboratory gas analysis to become available around 2 weeks after sampling. This highlights a further benefit of the direct-reading instrument; real-time results enable plant managers to adjust their process in order to improve efficiency and minimise the emissions of formaldehyde and other gases.

Ansyco’s Gerhard Zwick says: “We hope that the other measurements that are possible with the Gasmet FTIR will also soon be accepted. A new VDI method (VDI 3862-8) for the measurement of formaldehyde by FTIR is being established and this is likely to be published at the beginning of 2014.

“The preparation of this standard involved rigorous field tests with 5 Gasmet FTIR analysers at a live biogas plant. During testing, samples were taken for analysis according to the existing standard laboratory methods and the results showed that portable FTIR produced even better results than lab analysis.”

Formaldehyde reduction incentive
The bonus is paid to the operators of biogas plants which are subject to approval by the Federal Immission Control Act if certain conditions are met. Measurements to demonstrate the effectiveness of emission reduction have be taken each year by an organisation which is approved according to § 26 of the Act.

While the emission limit for formaldehyde is 60 mg/m3, according to the EEG legislative, the plant operator receives a bonus of 1 cent per kW when formaldehyde emission levels are below 40 mg/m3, with simultaneous fulfilment of the emission limits for nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide (combined), and for carbon monoxide.

With the benefit of real-time readings from the FTIR, process operators are able to employ process control measures to alter formaldehyde emissions. However, this may also affect the efficiency of the combustion process or the concentrations of other limited gases. In addition, it is now commonplace for modern plants to use a catalyst for formaldehyde emission reduction.

Summarising Gerhard Zwick says: “The standard formaldehyde emissions monitoring package consists of a Gasmet DX4000 analyser and a heated sampling system, so no adaptations were necessary for the measurement of biogas emissions.

“We have now supplied instruments to most of the key testing organisations as well as motor and system manufacturers in Germany. Happily, the feedback has been extremely positive because, as a portable analyser, the Gasmet FTIR systems are able to test more plants, more quickly, and this lowers costs.”


Instruments down the drain!

18/11/2013
CCTV hire supports excellence in drain services

With more than 40 regional drain cleaning service centres across Britain, Metro Rod provides a 24 hour service to anyone with blocked or damaged drains, pipes, toilets, sinks etc. To support this capability, the company and its franchisees maintain a fleet of the latest equipment such as tankers, high pressure jets, excavators, pipe liners and CCTV surveying equipment.

InpsectionFamilyTo ensure a fast and effective response to all customer requests during periods of peak demand, many of the franchisees take advantage of Ashtead Technology’s equipment rental fleet. For example, Ryan Davis is the owner and manager of the Metro Rod franchise for London East Central. With many years of experience managing Metro Rod in this area, Ryan has established a highly trained team of engineers supported by heavy investment in equipment such as a 3,000 gallon tanker and the latest CCTV drain inspection equipment. However, Ryan says: “Occasionally we need to undertake drain surveys in different locations at the same time, and we also receive enquiries that necessitate more specialised inspection cameras, so if our own equipment is unavailable, it is very useful to be able to hire the best instrument for the job.

“Ashtead Technology maintains a comprehensive fleet of the latest inspection tools including robotic camera crawlers and push-rod cameras and videoprobes, so we are able to quickly supplement our own equipment as and when we need to. This helps to ensure that our customers receive the best service possible.”

Metro Rod’s customers range from domestic customers with a blocked pipe or drain, to large water utilities that rely on a rapid response to any problems in the water and wastewater distribution network. In addition to emergency response, Metro Rod also provides routine preventative maintenance services to a wide range of organisations. For example, the south London franchisee provides ongoing service to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, including a major service in June, immediately prior to the Championships.

The ongoing operation of many industrial processes relies on the effective discharge of effluent, and any problem in this waste stream can limit or even halt production. Metro Rod’s national network of local teams means that the company is able to provide a fast and effective solution to blockages and related problems in pipes, drains and culverts.

“This ability to respond quickly to customer requests is a key feature of our business,” says Metro Rod’s Marketing Manager Ieuan Nicholls. “Our teams are highly trained and experienced, and they are equipped with the latest equipment to ensure prompt resolution of any problems.

“The facility to rent inspection equipment during periods of high demand means that we can ensure that we have the right kit on the ground for every job.”

Ashtead Technology’s Jay Neermul agrees: “It would not make financial sense for any company to purchase the volume of inspection equipment required to meet the highest level of need, because, by definition, a significant proportion of this equipment would lie unused, depreciating for much of the time.

“We have invested in our wastewater inspection fleet to meet increased demand, and have recently ordered more of the latest crawler units and pushrod cameras. We are therefore delighted to be able to partner with Metro Rod’s teams to ensure that they have exactly the right kit, wherever and whenever they need it.”


NPL trials identify improved bioaerosol monitoring technology

01/07/2013
Trials conducted by the British National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have identified improved methodologies for sampling and measuring bioaerosols at composting facilities. Commissioned by Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the first project began in 2008 and the results of a larger series of trials will be published later this summer.

Background
As Britain seeks to reduce the quantity of waste going to landfill, there has been a growth in demand for composting, particularly to accommodate ‘green bin’ waste. In addition there has been an increase in the variety of wastes that are being composted, so it is important to be able to understand the emissions from these processes in order to minimise any impact on the environment and human health.

Trials have identified improved methodologies for sampling and measuring bioaerosols at composting facilities. However, bioaerosols are sampled in a wide variety of industries where airborne biological particles (such as bacteria, pollen, endotoxins, viruses and fungal spores) represent a potential hazard.

Trials have identified improved methodologies for sampling and measuring bioaerosols at composting facilities. However, bioaerosols are sampled in a wide variety of industries where airborne biological particles (such as bacteria, pollen, endotoxins, viruses and fungal spores) represent a potential hazard.

Micro-organisms are necessary for the composting process, so they will always be present in large quantities within the bulk material. Any handling process, such as moving, sorting or turning, is likely to create airborne dust that will contain micro-organisms, and studies have shown that exposure to the pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus can trigger asthma, bronchitis and allergic responses, so workers and residents near composting sites are potentially at risk.

Traditional bioaerosol sampling techniques rely on the impaction of particles on a solid agar medium. However, these methods can be time-consuming and are limited by low flow rates and unreliable impaction. They are also restricted to particles that can be cultivated. In contrast, the wet walled cyclonic technology employed by the Coriolis instruments, rapidly collects biological particles in liquid at a high flow rate with validated efficiency, and the liquid containing the particles is compatible with a number of rapid microbiological analysis methods, including qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction), which enables the quantification and qualification of most targets.

Studies at NPL
The objective of the initial work was to improve the accuracy and speed of traditional measurement techniques, and one of the conclusions of the project was that the wet walled cyclonic technology employed by the Coriolis, gave the best performance for quantifying biological species such as fungi and bacteria, when used in conjunction with qPCR. Some of the experimental work was carried out at the Health Protection Agency (HPA)   – now Public Health England – to quantify the efficiency of sampling and analysis methods for the measurement of airborne Aspergillus fumigatus spores. This work demonstrated good correlation between Coriolis/qPCR and the HPA’s ‘standard’ method for these measurements.

As a result of the initial work, NPL now offers an Aspergillus fumigatus bioaerosol monitoring service to quantify airborne spore levels at composting sites using a rapid qPCR technique. The key advantages of this monitoring service over traditional microbiological methods are:

  1. Short sampling times
  2. Rapid analysis
  3. High sensitivity and broad detection range
  4. Species specific
  5. Detects total spore count (viable and non-viable), which overcomes any issue of emission underestimation as a result of damage to the spores during collection
  6. Aids differentiation between background spore levels and site specific emission

A full report in the early work has now been published on the Defra website, and further studies have been commissioned. The most recent studies have involved bioaerosol sampling with the Coriolis sampler at four different sites, every quarter during 2012. NPL’s David Butterfield says “The objective of the latest trial was to assess the sampling and monitoring technologies in greater detail, under differing weather conditions and with different sources.”

At the same time, a working group at CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation, is working on a new bioaerosol monitoring standard that is likely to accommodate the latest technology and will necessitate demonstration of equivalence.

Looking forward, Jim Mills from Air Monitors, the company which launched the Coriolis in the Britain, says “It will take some time before this new technology becomes standard practice, but in the meantime, with the benefit of the work that has been conducted by NPL and others, there is no reason why Coriolis should not be utilised widely to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of bioaerosol sampling at composting sites, and in many other applications such as hospitals, legionella investigations, cooling towers, animal housing and pharmaceutical manufacture.”


Moo gas! Ruminants with less impact on the environment

21/06/2013

Research highlights cattle emissions reduction opportunity

Author: Antti Heikkilä, Gasmet Europe Oy

Researchers in Denmark have measured the quantities of greenhouse gases in the breath of dairy cows and demonstrated a heritable variability between individual animals.  “This means that we have an opportunity to select for breeding those individuals which will produce offspring that generate less methane,” says Dr Jan Lassen who led the research project on individual methane measurements from dairy cows at Aarhus University.

Background
beithigOver the last 60 years, dairy cattle have been selectively bred to maximise milk production and as a result, cows have become extremely efficient at converting food such as grass, silage, hay and concentrates into agricultural products such as milk and meat. At the same time, feed quality, ration formulation and herd management have all contributed to the overall increase on productivity. However, one of the by-products of rumination, the process by which animals such as sheep and cattle digest food, is methane – a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG).

Retrospective calculations made by (Chase 2006) indicate there has been a 40% reduction in methane emissions per litre of milk produced in the USA from 1944 to 2007. Nevertheless, over the course of a year, the methane from one cow’s belches is currently equivalent to the carbon dioxide emission from a small car. Globally, it has been estimated that livestock account for 15% of total GHG emissions (Steinfeld et al., 2006), so there is a great deal of interest in finding ways to reduce this value.

The global warming potential of methane is about 25 times that of carbon dioxide (Forster et al., 2007), so a small reduction in methane production could have significantly beneficial effects.

Recently, researchers in a number of countries have shown that it is possible to reduce methane emission from cows by altering their diet, but this is only likely to have a beneficial effect on GHG emissions if the necessary feeds are available to farmers at a cost that does not increase the overall cost of the diet, and if these feeds do not have a negative effect on animal production. However, if those individuals that generate lower levels of methane can be identified, it would be possible to build this into breeding programmes.

Gas sampling during milking

Gas sampling during milking

Gas sampling
Methane is a by-product of fermentation in the rumen and is expelled by belching or eructation. Around 80% of ruminant methane emissions emerge from the mouth of the animal, with only 20% emitted from the rear (Verge et la., 2007), so the Danish workers have focused on the breath of cows in their research.  Naturally, it can be difficult to capture all of a cow’s breath under natural conditions, so the Danish workers constructed a sampling system that collected the breath of cows as they stood in an automatic milking machine – an activity which took place between 2 and 12 times per day during the research programme.

Gas analysis
The two main GHGs of interest were methane and carbon dioxide, and these were measured simultaneously with a Gasmet FTIR (Fourier Transform InfraRed) analyser. Initially, a Gasmet DX4030 portable FTIR analyzer was borrowed from the University of Copenhagen for this work, but subsequently a similar analyzer, a Gasmet DX4000 was purchased and built into a customised air-conditioned chamber that protected the analyzer from dust and dirt.

FTIR
An FTIR spectrometer obtains infrared spectra by first collecting an ‘interferogram’ of a sample signal with an interferometer, which measures all infrared frequencies simultaneously to produce a spectrum. High levels of accuracy and low levels of maintenance are achieved as a result of continuous calibration with a He-Ne laser, which provides a stable wavenumber scale. In addition, high spectral signal to noise ratio and high wavenumber precision are characteristic of the FTIR method.

FTIR Analyser in bespoke tray

FTIR Analyser in bespoke tray

While the Gasmet FTIR is able to measure methane and carbon dioxide continuously, it also produces spectra for the sampled gases from which it is possible to determine the concentrations of hundreds of other gases. This was an important consideration in the choice of FTIR. “Simpler, lower cost analyzers are available for measuring methane and carbon dioxide,” says Jan Lassen, “but we wanted to build a comprehensive picture of cattle breath analysis, over as many animals as possible and for as many chemical species as possible.

“The Gasmet FTIR is supplied with ‘Calcmet’ software which enables us to store the spectra and this is critically important, because it means that our research can be used by us or other workers in the future.

“Calcmet contains a library of reference spectra that extends to simultaneous quantification of 50 gases or identification of unknowns from a collection of 5000+ gases. This means that it is possible to retrospectively analyse produced spectra for almost any chemical species.

“Initially, we were most interested in methane and carbon dioxide, but in the future we plan to study the levels of gases such as acetone, ammonia, ethanol and nitrous oxide. These gases are very likely to be indicators of metabolic efficiency, so the FTIR spectra could open new opportunities for improving the efficiency of animal production.”

Results and conclusions
Both concentrate feed intake and total mixed ration intake were positively related to methane production, whereas milk production level was not correlated with methane production. Following research involving over one thousand cows, methane production was found to vary between individuals by around 20% and this was shown to be a heritable trait. In other research, a heritable variability of 13% was found in sheep (Robinson et al., 2010).

Similar research at the University of Nottingham, UK, also concluded that variability between individuals might offer opportunities for genetic selection (Garnsworthy et al., 2012).

Much of the success that has been achieved in the improvement of dairy cattle performance has been through the selection of bulls with offspring that display desirable traits – high milk yield or beef production efficiency for example. This research has shown that it is possible to measure the methane production rates of cattle and thereby to infer a ‘methane score’ for individual bulls, so that this could become a selection criterion for farmers when choosing sires for dairy herds.

By selecting sires with a good methane score, dairy farmers could make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change. However, it may be difficult to encourage them to make such choices unless there is a significant commercial reason for doing so. On this point, Jan Lassen says “The eructation of methane represents a loss of energy and therefore a lowering of production efficiency, so it makes commercial sense for farmers to select individuals with a better methane score, not just because it helps fight climate change, but also because it probably improves the efficiency of ruminant digestion in offspring.”

Looking forward
Dr Lassen hopes that international projects that aim to combine the data obtained from research such as his with others in other countries can be initiated soon. For example, he is aware of several researchers conducting similar work with Gasmet FTIR analyzers in other countries, and gas analysis spectra from these projects will be combined to improve the understanding of methane production heritability. However, these spectra also offer an excellent opportunity to analyse different chemical species in order to further investigate ruminant productivity.

FTIR gas analysis is now being employed for the measurement of GHGs in a wide variety of applications including industrial emissions, automotive emissions, and gas flux measurements in Arctic soils. This provides two important benefits for future research; firstly, Gasmet staff are now highly experienced in configuring systems to measure GHGs and secondly, an enormous library of stored spectra has been created, which will help future researchers to analyse both new and old measurements.

As more data is collected from larger numbers of cattle, it will become possible to establish a methane score for specific bulls and Dr Lassen is optimistic that this will become a selection criterion in the future.

References 

Chase, L.E. 2006. How much methane do cows emit? Proc. Cornell Nutr. Conf., Syracuse, NY. Pp: 219-226.

Forster, P., V. Ramaswamy, P. Artaxo, T. Berntsen, R. Betts, D. W. Fahey, J. Haywood, J. Lean, D. C. Lowe, G. Myhre, J. Nganga, R. Prinn, G. Raga, M. Schulz, and R. Van Dorland. 2007. Changes in atmospheric constituents and in radiative forcing. Pages 129–234 in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H. L. Miller, ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY.

Garnsworthy P.C., J. Craigon, J. H. Hernandez-Medrano, and N. Saunders. 2012. Variation among individual dairy cows in methane measurements made on farm during milking.

Robinson, D. L., J. P. Goopy, R. S. Hegarty, and P. E. Vercoe. 2010. Repeatability, animal and sire variation in 1-hr methane emissions and relationship with rumen volatile fatty acid concentrations. Abstract no 712 in: Proc. 9th World Congress in Genetics Applied to Livestock. Book of Abstracts.

Steinfeld, H., P. Gerber, T. Wassenaar, V. Castel, M. Rosales,and C. de Haan.  2006.  Livestock’s  Long  Shadow:  Environmental  Issues and  Options. Food and Agriculture  Organization  of  the  United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy.

Vergé, X. P. C., J. A. Dyer, R. L. Desjardins, and D. Worth. 2007.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian dairy industry in 2001. Agric. Syst. 94:683–693.


Remote monitors track river restoration success

10/05/2013
Remote monitoring of restoration work on beautiful English river using advanced sensing and telemetry technology.

Possibly one of the most unique areas of England is East Anglia; that part of the country north of London and south of the inlet known as the Wash. It encompasses the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, and is generally flat, stretching to the famous Broads, beloved of inland sailors and wildlife lovers. Water is an ever-present feature and this needs to be protected for environmental and biodiversity reasons.

The Norfolk Rivers Trust has installed a remote river monitoring station that has been tracking water quality and flow before and after river restoration work at an area of ecological importance on the River Nar (WIKI link!).

Picturesque view of the River Nar below Castle Acre! (Pic: Norfolk Rivers Trust)

Picturesque view of the River Nar below Castle Acre! (Pic: Norfolk Rivers Trust)

Rising in chalk hills to the east of the village of Tittleshall, the river flows south for 2.5 km until it reaches Mileham, then predominately west for 39.5 km through the villages of Litcham, Castle Acre, West Acre and Narborough until it reaches the tidal Ouse at King’s Lynn. The river rises on chalk and in its course to Narborough flows over chalk formations. In its lower course the underlying geology is more complex and consists of a progression from Narborough downstream through a series of clays and greensands, making it one of only a few remaining fenland chalk streams. In line with the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, the project is designed to ensure that the Nar maintains good ecological status by 2015 and in doing so it aims to improve the habitat for wildlife and promote biodiversity. The river monitoring station incorporates an Adcon GPRS telemetry unit from OTT Hydrometry, which automatically collects data and feeds a website, providing easy access for the project team.

The Problem
Agricultural runoff is a particular problem in the Anglian region because of the light sandy soils which are easily eroded during times of heavy rainfall. Fertilisers can add to the problem because they can be washed from the field and end up in water courses. As a result, many Norfolk Rivers contain high levels of nitrate and phosphate. Excessive levels of these nutrients can lead to eutrophication, symptoms of this can include vigorous growth of blanket weed; this change in water quality lowers dissolved oxygen levels in the streams and rivers, and harms wildlife.

In the past, the Nar channel has been made straighter, wider and deeper; initially to improve navigation, and later to improve drainage. However, this has had a detrimental effect on wildlife.

The River Nar also suffers from sediment deposition arising from point sources such as land drains, and from diffuse sources such as run-off resulting from cultivation in wet periods. This has affected species that rely on gravel beds for any stage in their lifecycle. For example, brown trout need sediment free gravel to lay their eggs.

The River Nar Project
Assisted by funds from WWF-UK, the Coca-Cola Partnership and the Catchment Restoration Fund, the Norfolk Rivers Trust has established a £609k  (€720k) river and flood plain restoration project to reduce pollution in the River Nar and improve the habitat for wildlife.

The project began in June 2012 and includes work to change the course of the river from a straight incised channel to a meandering route; reconnecting the river to the floodplain, which would create new habitats. This channel restoration project was completed in October 2012. The project also includes the creation of reed beds and other in-ditch options to trap sediment before it enters the River Nar. Currently four reed beds have been installed in different areas in the River Nar catchment which also includes the dredging of an existing pond.

Monitoring
Prior to the commencement of the project, the Norfolk Rivers Trust measured water quality by collecting weekly samples and transferring them to their laboratory for analysis. This was a time-consuming and expensive activity and only produced spot data for the moment that a sample was taken. Consequently, events that took place at night or between the sampling interval were not detected, so there were clear advantages to be obtained from continuous monitoring.

In order to establish a continuous monitoring station for water quality and flow, OTT Hydrometry provided a Hydrolab Minisonde water quality monitor and an Adcon A755 Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU). In combination with a bed mounted Doppler flow meter (provided by the Environment Agency), the station is able to provide a continuous record of the river’s condition.

narOTTThe Hydrolab Minisonde 5 takes measurements for turbidity, flow, conductivity, temperature and luminescent dissolved oxygen (LDO) every 15 minutes. The collected flow and water chemistry data is then stored and transmitted every hour via the RTU to an online server hosted by OTT Hydrometry. This allows information to be downloaded and analysed in the Trust’s office without the need for regular site visits. Data can be accessed at anytime from anywhere using the Adcon app.

Operating on extremely low power, and designed specifically for the collection and transmission of remote monitoring data, ADCON RTUs are able to utilise a variety of communication methods depending on site conditions. For example, radio represents a low-cost alternative in areas with poor GSM coverage and where line of sight is possible, with repeaters if necessary.

The monitoring site on the Nar has some GSM coverage, but the signal is poor, so an ADCON A755 RTU was chosen to communicate via GPRS. The A755 RTU has been developed specifically for areas with low signal, because it stores all monitoring data when signal strength is too low for transmission, and then sends the information when signal coverage improves, sending the backed up data first.

The monitoring equipment was installed at the end of July 2012 and restoration work began on 8th October 2012. Emphasising the importance of monitoring before and after the restoration work, project officer Helen Mandley says: “To be able to judge the success of the project it is essential that we are able to compare water quality data from the old river channel to the new river channel, because we need to improve water quality in order to improve the biodiversity of the river.”

Results
In addition to water quality and flow monitoring, ecological assessments have been undertaken for water voles and other small mammals, macrophytes, aquatic invertebrates, vegetation and fish. However, before a reliable assessment of the project’s success can be undertaken, it will be necessary to evaluate data over an extended period so that seasonal effects can be taken into consideration.

Pre- and post-restoration data on ecology, water quality and flow will be assessed in September 2013, and it is hoped that this will provide clear evidence that the project has had a significant effect on water quality and biodiversity.

Helen hopes to continue the project beyond 2013 commenting, “We currently monitor downstream of one of the new reed beds, but in the future we would like to place more monitoring equipment upstream of the reed bed to really see the differences, particularly in levels of turbidity and conductivity.”

The current phase of the project is due to run until the end of 2013, but a series of ‘restoration units’ have been identified by The River Nar Steering group that includes the Norfolk Rivers Trust, each applying restorative work to a specific section of the river. These units extend to 2027 but will be reliant on the availability of future funding.

Clearly, environmental monitoring is essential for the evaluation and ongoing management of remediation projects, and OTT’s UK Managing Director Simon Wills says: “This project is a good example of how simple and low-cost it can now be to create a monitoring station that is sufficiently flexible to collect and transmit data from a variety of monitors. “Advances in sensor, datalogging, communications and power management technology have combined to dramatically improve the effectiveness of remote data collection, which means that less site visits are necessary; thereby saving a great deal of time and money that can be spent on restoration.


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