Utilities Find Value in Combining Continuous Water Analysis with Advanced Predictive Tools

Online digital measurement technologies backed by predictive maintenance are helping water industry operators meet growing quality, supply and compliance challenges.

Utilities Find Value in Combining Continuous Water Analysis with Advanced Predictive Tools

The augmented reality-based Remote Insights tool from ABB is part of a suite of products aimed at helping users to quickly access equipment performance data and call for expert help when required.

With global water shortages looming, industries and municipalities increasingly seek solutions to avoid a water crisis. The combination of continuous water analysis technology and advanced digital predictive maintenance can make a significant difference in drinking water and wastewater treatment.

The impacts of a growing population, climate change and a trend toward urbanization are already having an impact on the way that water is managed and distributed. With predictions that demand for water will outstrip supplies by 40% by 2030, structures must be put in place to ensure access to water for as many people as possible. 

Preparation for the future means understanding what is happening now and taking measures to prevent issues and optimize networks to meet current and future demand. In water plants, instruments and analyzers provide the front line in gathering information on water quality throughout the treatment processes.

Traditionally, testing entailed extracting samples for laboratory analysis and applying the results to the overall condition of the source from which the samples were taken. This approach only yielded information for a particular set of conditions at a moment in time.

Advantages of technology

In recent years, this method is being overtaken by online devices that measure and analyze conditions in real time or near-real time. Advanced digital technologies include the ability to use a single analyzer to measure inputs from multiple sensors tracking different parameters. These devices are deployed in a growing range of municipal and industrial applications that demand accurate, reliable, timely water quality measurement.

Given the need for continuous water treatment and supply, along with the growing need to conserve water and satisfy environmental regulations, operators need to fully understand what is happening in their processes. Online measurement using the latest digital equipment provides ready access to data on current conditions. Operators then can make informed decisions to maximize treatment efficiency. This delivers significant benefits.

Optimized chemical dosing

During coagulation and flocculation stages in potable water treatment, it is important to ensure that the correct amounts of chemicals are added. Aside from the cost of the chemicals, overdosing can impair long-term filter efficiency and lead to excessive residual coagulant entering the distribution system. On the other hand, underdosing can inhibit removal of color, turbidity and microorganisms.

Continuous water analyzers that monitor key parameters like aluminum or iron content, turbidity, pH/ORP, color and dissolved organics help ensure that the water is dosed appropriately, keeping the process in balance chemicals costs in line.

Improved energy efficiency

Energy accounts for a significant share of treatment and distribution costs. For example, aeration in wastewater treatment typically accounts for more than half of plant energy consumption. For optimum efficiency, dissolved oxygen needs to be continually controlled and maintained. Too little will impair treatment efficiency; too much can hinder sludge settling and denitrification and increase treatment cost.

These problems can be overcome through continuous DO measurement. When used with digital sensing technology, online measurement helps closely match DO to the actual oxygen demand. When coupled with automatic blower control, significant energy cost savings can be realized.

Reduced risk of compliance breaches

Drinking water quality and wastewater effluent regulations are tightening; noncompliance can bring penalties potentially running into millions of dollars. Continuous measurement again provides the answer. The latest optical measurement sensing technologies provide precise and extremely stable measurements, enabling operators to keep a close eye on the process and remain in compliance.

Sharper management

As operators rely on these devices to deliver the information they need, the devices must be kept in optimum working condition, with the ability to pinpoint, diagnose and rectify problems before they escalate. Developments in remote predictive maintenance technology make that easier to achieve. Technology opens new opportunities to interrogate, operate and maintain devices without an engineer being physically present.

Manufacturers offer an expanding range of technology-based services providing added value functions that give operators up-to-the-minute information on device status in a variety of ways through devices such as laptops, PCs, tablets and smartphones. Often, these services include the option to have the devices monitored by the manufacturer, who can assess their performance and inform customers when remedial actions are needed.

The use of familiar technology interfaces also helps to equip service engineers with new tools to easily assess equipment performance and diagnose, report and resolve faults with minimal training. One tool enables an engineer to use a QR code to report a fault and get a fast response from a dedicated technical expert able to talk through and resolve a problem.

Another example is the use of augmented reality to enable users to collaborate remotely with a manufacturer’s expert. Using live guidance overlaid on live video, the expert and the user share the same view of the equipment and can discuss what steps need to be taken.

Being sustainable

More information, better control, less cost, more focused maintenance, fewer breakdowns and a substantially reduced risk of water quality incidents — all these benefits come from the latest online digital measurement equipment. Predictive maintenance technologies make these devices a powerful solution to help water companies face the growing challenge of water sustainability.

About the author: Jonathan Penn is the product line manager for ABB’s portfolio of continuous water analyzers. He can be reached at jon.penn@gb.abb.com.   


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