Looking beyond energy savings at Northumbrian Water Group

In an industry famous for being conservative, Northumbrian Water Group is noteworthy for innovation. But even so, eyebrows were raised when in March 2011 Northumbrian Water announced that it would be the first water utility in the European Community to implement the Derceto Aquadapt software throughout its network – targeting energy cost savings as well as operational efficiencies and water quality improvements. 

Northumbrian Water’s implementation of Derceto’s Aquadapt continues to be closely followed by water utilities across the European Union. Part of the interest is by virtue of Northumbrian Water’s size and industry profile. Among the top five water utilities in the UK, by any measure Northumbrian Water is big. It serves a population of 2.6 million in the north east of England with water and sewerage services and a further 1.8 million in the Essex, south Norfolk and north Suffolk areas. Its Kielder reservoir is the largest man made reservoir in Northern Europe. In total, Northumbrian Water has more than 25,000km of water mains, 57 water treatment works, and 338 water service reservoirs. Its size – and value – was highlighted in August 2011 with the Reuters report that ‘a consortium led by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) had agreed to take over Northumbrian Water Group in an all cash deal which values the British utility at about £2.41 billion’ – the biggest takeover of a British listed company during 2011.

In Derceto’s news release back in 2011, CEO Wayne Spittal noted that the project was the largest carried out by Derceto to date and would result in energy cost savings for Northumbrian Water of around £1 million a year. Northumbrian Water Network Manager Dennis Dellow said the decision to purchase Aquadapt had been driven primarily by the need to control, manage and predict energy costs, but he also pointed to other operational benefits.

“For a water utility, energy is the second highest cost after labour,” Dennis Dellow said. “We are principally interested in Derceto’s Aquadapt as a way of reducing energy costs, mainly through more efficient pump scheduling. But as the product was evaluated, and Derceto analyzed the cost saving opportunities, it became clear that in addition to achieving significant energy savings, Aquadapt could also provide accurate energy modeling, and that data could be used to negotiate more favorable three-year energy supply contracts.” This indeed proved the case in 2013. He said there would also be operational benefits from being able to support individual operators with a powerful software tool designed to enable consistent and predictable operation. “We have a lot of storage so we have quite a lot of flexibility in how we pump the water. But we have a highly complex system with hundreds of pumping stations and reservoirs, so it’s a big challenge to maintain supply and manage reservoirs at operational levels while at the same time prioritizing lowest cost electricity use. This is a bigger and more complex problem that cannot be managed by individual operators over such a large number of sites.”

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Q: Isn't this software going to have a big impact on my control network?

Dec 04 2010

A: No, Aquadapt software collects data from the SCADA server once every 10 minutes. It reads just storage tank levels and flow totals. Typically this takes milliseconds and will be unnoticeable to the operators. Note it gets this data from the server and not from the field so there is no impact on your telemetry operations at all.