The water industry is facing increasing pressure to optimise treatment processes and address the impending global water crisis. ABB’s global product line manager, Krishna Prashanth suggests how the integration of smart instrumentation and predictive maintenance can ensure the highest quality treatment of water to meet the needs of present and future generations.
The urgent need to address the looming issue of water scarcity has led to a growing focus on effective management of existing water supplies. The United Nations has warned of a potential 40% global water deficit by 2030, unless immediate action is taken to manage water demand – which is projected to increase by 20 to 30% by 2050 – and conserve existing supplies. A major part of this includes improving access to safely treated water for the estimated 2,2 billion people worldwide who currently lack it. This involves efficient recovery and retreatment of wastewater from domestic and industrial sources, as approximately 80% of wastewater is lost without being reused or recovered.
To address these challenges, the UN has set Sustainable Development Goal 6.3, which aims to halve wastewater losses by 2030, increase recycling, and reduce hazardous pollutants in discharged effluent. Research conducted on behalf of ABB by Development Economics highlights the need to increase global wastewater treatment capacity by 8.56 billion cubic metres per year by 2030 to achieve these objectives.
Optimising the performance of water treatment plants is essential in combating water scarcity. At the frontline of the water treatment process, advanced measurement technologies play a vital role in the recovery, restoration and safe return of wastewater to the water cycle, providing critical data for optimising water treatment processes.
Instruments and analysers installed in treatment plants worldwide measure parameters such as pressure, temperature, flow, level, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and chemical concentration. For instance, the measurement of aeration efficiency is crucial in wastewater treatment. ABB’s optical dissolved oxygen sensors offer continuous readings of dissolved oxygen levels, enabling operators to adjust the aeration process within the recommended range of 1,5 to 2 ppm. This ensures optimal conditions for bacteria to consume organic waste, while minimising energy costs and environmental impact.
Getting more from data
Advances in digital technologies have expanded the possibilities for data utilisation in plant and process optimisation. Examples are IIoT-enabled sensors and transmitters with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G/5G, and Narrowband IoT (NBIoT) communication. These technologies enable the extraction of valuable device-level diagnostic data, which can enhance measurement accuracy and regulatory compliance.
ABB’s digital pH sensors and WaterMaster electromagnetic flowmeters feature self-diagnostic capabilities that can warn of deteriorating performance that might affect water treatment processes. For example, the pH sensors can detect changes in calibration or sensor performance that may impact accurate measurement in chemical dosing or effluent quality tasks. WaterMaster flowmeters offer diagnostic features and optional verification software, ensuring high measurement accuracy for wastewater flows and identifying potential flow rate issues caused by system problems.
The integration of diagnostic features, digital technologies and real-time data analysis is a key enabler for predictive maintenance. By tapping into their potential, water companies can shift from preventive maintenance strategies, where devices are maintained on a fixed schedule regardless of their actual maintenance needs, to strategies based on predicted changes in device behaviour. By combining sensor data with machine learning and AI, operators can make informed decisions about device maintenance, minimising downtime and disruptions in the treatment process.
Making data work
To fully realise the value of data, it must be shareable. Data siloing is a recognised problem within the water industry due to remote plant locations and existing data collection and handling practices. Asset management systems like the ABB Ability SmartMaster platform address this issue by linking operational and engineering data with information management. These systems facilitate easy data collection and sharing across sites or organisations. They enable fleet-wide predictive maintenance by collecting and analysing data from devices of different makes, identifying devices requiring intervention, and comparing performance across the fleet. Furthermore, these systems simplify data access for engineers through smart devices, providing guidance for maintenance and addressing the skills shortage in the industry.
Towards a more measured world of water
Accurate measurement is the foundation for optimising water treatment processes and improving water quality. By leveraging smart measurement instruments, analysers and predictive maintenance, water treatment plant operators can contribute to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals. Through these advances, wastewater can be treated to the highest quality before being returned to the environment, becoming a game changer in the battle against water scarcity.
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