Innovation could save millions in sewer system management
Envirosuite has entered into an agreement with the University of Queensland which will see the SeweX modelling tool for wastewater management embedded into Envirosuite’s wastewater solutions.
The SeweX technology uses mathematical modelling to predict odour and corrosion hotspots and to optimise mitigation strategies in sewer mains, and was developed by researchers from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC).
The addition of SeweX to Envirosuite’s existing wastewater solutions extends the real-time monitoring and predictive capabilities across the entire wastewater system. It will ultimately enable wastewater operators to better manage performance and environmental impact of their sewer systems, while extending the life of these critical infrastructure assets.
Sewer corrosion is not something most people think about, but it is critically important to public health and wellbeing and is a hugely expensive problem. Corrosion in sewer systems and drinking water systems is estimated to cost close to AU$1bn in Australia annually and US$36bn in the US.
The new technology could help wastewater operators save millions of dollars every year in operational and capital costs and consumer complaint management.
Robin Ormerod, Chief Scientist at Envirosuite, explained: “Globally, more than 4 billion people live in urban areas, most of which have sewer systems, and this figure is increasing every year as populations grow and cities extend their footprint. As sewer systems get older or the capacity increases, the chances of issues such as odour leaks and the need for reconstruction of corroded sewers increase exponentially.
“Innovations like SeweX are critically important as they help identify issues before they arise, extending the lives of sewer systems, more efficiently managing corrosion control systems and reducing the chances of offensive odours wafting around our streets.”
SeweX is an advanced mathematical modelling tool that describes the physical, chemical and biological processes in sewers. It was developed by AWMC in response to a request for help from the City of Gold Coast to investigate corrosion problems in its sewer pipes.
The SeweX solution has saved $30 million in capital costs for City of the Gold Coast. It has also saved several hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in operating costs, while odour complaints from the public stopped completely.
The new solution enables users to:
- make real-time and predictive dosing decisions to avoid corrosion and odour issues,
- identify corrosion and odour risk priority areas,
- pinpoint the source of pollution events in real time,
- use a digital twin solution to test the efficacy of different operating scenarios to solve those issues.
AWMC Director Professor Zhiguo Yuan AM said the technology was developed in response to needs identified by the water industry. “Corrosion and odour problems in sewers are most often caused by sulfate-reducing bacteria in sewer biofilms that produce hydrogen sulfide,” Professor Yuan said.
“Hydrogen sulfide is released into the atmosphere above the wastewater, causing odour problems, and is converted by sulfide-oxidising bacteria into sulfuric acid, which is corrosive to concrete sewer pipes.
“Sewer networks can include many kilometres of sewer pipe and various topographical elements, such as rising mains, gravity mains, pumping stations and manholes. It is practically difficult to physically inspect all these structures to identify corrosion issues, making modelling a more efficient and cost-effective alternative.”
Ormerod added: “Water is in crisis. Natural and man-made water systems across the globe are under increasing stress and it’s not just about water supply; we need solutions to all aspects of the water ecosystem, and that includes how we manage wastewater. The potential to greatly reduce wastewater system costs can free up finances to tackle other urgent issues.
“Bringing tools like SeweX, which have sprung from some of the greatest academic minds in the water industry, together with our strength in technology and focus on digitising wastewater management is hugely powerful.
“Insightful real-time and predictive information means easier, better management of water quantity, water quality and physical assets. A digital water industry means the big challenges become less daunting.”
UQ’s technology transfer company UniQuest negotiated the licence agreement with Envirosuite.
UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said SeweX incorporated complex algorithms into its model to cleverly predict odour and corrosion hotspots across sewerage networks.
“It is fantastic to see UQ research helping an Australian company like Envirosuite to drive key improvements to the way water utilities manage wastewater to benefit communities right across the country, and even globally,” he said.
Envirosuite will integrate SeweX into its product suite for real-time and predictive environmental technologies for release in early 2020.
 ACA (2010) The Australian Corrosion Association Inc. Corrosion Challenge Project, Australian Corrosion Association, in DNV GL – Report No. OAPUS310GKOCH (PP110272)-1, Rev. 3, Accessed 08/11/2019: http://impact.nace.org/documents/appendix-a.pdf
 FHWA (2002) Corrosion Costs and Preventive Strategies in the United States, Summary of Federal Highways Administration Publication FHWA-RD-01-156 Accessed 08/11/2019: http://impact.nace.org/documents/ccsupp.pdf
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