Regulations drive automation in W&W in Europe


The European water and wastewater (W&WW) sector has been offering sustainable opportunities for the automation and control solutions (ACS) market mainly due to supportive legislation. Stringent regulations and intervention from private participants have paved the way for prospective growth opportunities for ACS in the European W&WW sector. Additionally, investments from the developing economies of the Central and Eastern European (CEE) regions contribute to building more automated plants in Europe.

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New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of Automation and Control Solutions in European Water and Wastewater Sector, finds that the market earned revenues of $623.3 (€500+)  million in 2009, and estimates this to reach $825.5 (€670+) million in 2016. The markets covered in this research service by product type are programmable logic controller (PLC), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), disturbed control system (DCS), human machine interface (HMI), manufacturing execution systems (MES) and industrial asset management (IAM).

The majority of Europe has poor networking with regard to water distribution and wastewater treatment. EU directives such as the Water Frame Work Directive, Drinking Water Directive and Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive are the main political drivers that have catalysed strong opportunities for treatment techniques such as membrane bio-reactor (MBR), ozone and ultraviolet (UV).

“European Union’s directives are the major driver for the growth of automation and control systems across the water and wastewater sector, mandating the European countries to comply,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Katarzyna Owczarczyk. “The primary focus of the regulations is to enhance the water and the wastewater infrastructure in order to concentrate on incorporating the ACS system to completely automate the plant, help in continually tracking several production processes, and also effectively control and maintain various plant operations.”

The accession countries face the impact of EU regulations the most due to the timeframe within which they have to transpose the directives into actions. Regions such as Eastern Europe, but also others like Iberia, parts of Italy, and Benelux are undertaking large-scale implementation of water treatment plants. Significantly, European Union is funding the new member states from the CEE region to improve their W&WW infrastructure through the cohesion fund mechanism, leading to a plethora of design, build and operate (DBO) opportunities. All these initiatives are likely to spur growth of the European ACS market for the W&WW industry.

However, a key challenge faced by ACS manufacturers is the need to provide systems that seamlessly integrate with the existing plant infrastructure.

“The end users are conservative when it comes to revamping the existing systems in order to incorporate latest automation and control solutions,” explains Owczarczyk. “Integration issues along with the cost involved in revamping make the end users reluctant, and consequently either prohibiting or delaying the implementation of newer automation and control solutions.”

“Manufacturers should reassure customers about their products’ compatibility and urge them to adapt to the new systems,” he concludes. “Besides providing automation systems that are compatible with the existing plant set-up, suppliers can also retain the cost and engineering inputs from the earlier set-up.”

New technology for final effluent monitoring


Engineers at Intellitect Water have developed a version of the company’s innovative multiparameter water quality monitoring sonde, the ‘Intellisonde FE™’ that has been designed to bring the advantages of online monitoring to a much larger proportion of wastewater treatment plants.

One of the new sondes has been on trial at Wessex Water’s sewage treatment works in Bournemouth (GB). The monitor was installed in January 2010 at the plant’s outfall, adjacent to traditional online monitoring instruments and Wessex Water’s Regional Waste Scientist Mike Robinson, says: “The trial is proceeding very well, with the Intellisonde FE™ producing measurements that closely mirror data from our other monitors and from manual tests.”

The Intellisonde FE™ is located in a flow-though chamber which is fed by a submerged sampling pump located in a sump. A level gauge ensures that the sump does not pump dry.

Inside the sonde head, tiny solid-state sensors continuously monitor conductivity, pH, temperature, turbidity and ammonium. The unit can log at intervals between one minute and one hour on all parameters simultaneously and recorded on an internal datalogger, however data is transmitted via GPRS to a dedicated server which feeds a web site to enable 24/7 access to (almost) live water quality information.

The graph shows recorded data during February and March 2010 and Mike reports that no calibration or maintenance was necessary during this period. It can be seen that rainfall/stormwater events have a significant effect on temperature and conductivity.

Intellitect Water’s Technical Director David Vincent, believes that recent changes in monitoring requirements will greatly enhance the demand for the new Intellisonde FE™. He explains, “The Environment Agency (EA) is currently engaged upon a programme of passing the responsibility for collecting, analysing and reporting discharge quality to operators. At the same time, the level of monitoring required will depend on the level of pollution risk that each discharge represents. Consequently operators, such as the water industry and the process industries, will have to develop a monitoring strategy that meets the requirements of the EA.”

Occasional sampling and analysis can be lower in cost than online monitoring. However, the main disadvantages are that a pollution incident could go undetected between sampling times and infrequent data does not support process optimisation. In contrast, David says, “The Intellisonde FE™ will provide continuous access to effluent quality data and thereby help to raise compliance levels even further.”

The unit will also provide major financial advantages. It is priced for volume deployment, significantly below traditional effluent monitoring systems, which means that it will become cost-effective for a much larger proportion of works and will save the cost of sampler visits and analysis.

From a water company perspective, Mike Robinson says, “If we can prove that the lifetime costs are as low as they appear and if the unit continues to perform reliably, the lack of a requirement for chemicals coupled with a low maintenance requirement will mean that the Intellisonde FE™ could find application at a large number of treatment works.”