WEX NEWS: Omar Hammoud blows away the competition in a 1350HP single-stage – read more below, and meet him in Valencia

Omar Hammoud is the owner and CEO of technology development specialists APG-Neuros (APGN), based in Quebec, Canada, developers of high-efficiency turbo blowers and complete aeration systems to the water and wastewater treatment market in North and South America, Europe and the Middle East. In addition to being sponsors of WEX Global 2020, Omar will be running a panel discussion entitled Improving Energy Efficiency in Water and Wastewater Treatment’.

 

Why do you come to WEX Global?

‘We want to meet lots of cities, and consultant engineers as well. APG-Neuros has been coming to WEX for a good many years now, so we know it works in terms of bringing us new business and opportunities. And we need help from WEX to make those crucial appointments. It’s a fast-paced event, and sometimes we’d welcome a five-minute breather between meetings.’

What’s APG-Neuros working on at the moment?

Our new 1350HP single-stage blower has taken the tech market by storm. The first one, installed by the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District in Denver, Colorado, was delivered in December 2019, and went live early in February 2020.

Why is it so special?

It’s the first ever high-efficiency 1MW turbo blower and has gained attention from clients all over the world. Existing systems have been around since the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but this is the biggest turbo-blower with one motor of its kind. It supplies more air with a smaller physical footprint (80% reduction), higher total wire-to-air efficiency (improved by 15-20%), more flexible control (with variable speed and turndown, resulting in less wasted air blown out and electricity used), low maintenance, and quiet operation.

Gas turbine blower operating on natural gas reduces operating costs by more than 40%. When operated with biogas, reduces by more than 80% compared to if it’s being run on electricity.  This helps all of the clients who want to be ‘net zero carbon’ to meet their goals.

The Gas Turbine Blower is at the individual testing stage at the moment, and we’re hoping to deliver them in July-August 2020 in the USA.

How do you account for your company’s success?

We’re unique in our industry, and have achieved this by being very strong in engineering, with a team of people – about 80 employees currently, in Canada, the US and UK – who are very good at what they do, including scientists who worked for NASA.

We’ve had very good success in the UK, since starting to do more work there, involving five out of the nine wastewater utilities. We’re looking to further establish a UK company and test facility with test cells present there. Our current UK clients are Welsh Water, Wessex Water, Anglian Water (an involvement that’s been building up since 2014), Thames Water and Severn Trent, with remote installation on the Isle of Man.

What else is new?

On the innovation side, we’re starting ‘intelligent predictive control’, which will predict – using AI – the parameters of control needed to achieve the best efficiency. Big data will be looked at, and this will also lead to cutting costs for our customers.

We’re also offering turnkey solutions to our customers using process analysis. We aim to alleviate our customers’ concerns over the volatility of technology and any associated risks. We’ve enjoyed great success in this area, particularly in Denver – with whole turnkey solutions – and in the UK, where 90% of our clients are using this method.

One way we’ve achieved this is by hiring our own customers: bringing them in to be part of the team – then they can be sure they get the perfect solution! We’ve done this both in the UK and the US.

What about the circular economy?

Our new gas turbine blowers are assisting in this area: by using less energy – especially if using biogas – also makes them independent and less on the power grid. In the future, there will probably be two-way options so they can use the grid if they need to.

And smart tech?

With regard to remote monitoring we’re currently using 3G, but that will become 5G. We have cloud networking security. We already have ‘read’ capabilities, and if we get ‘write’ capabilities, too, we’ll be able to manage our clients’ systems very effectively.

For example in Denver, they made one change and solved the problem. It was so successful that the clients were actually emotional! Denver’s Metro District installed an APGN direct-drive magnetic bearing turbo-blower at their Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility (RWHTF), They described working with APGN as “a unique opportunity to evaluate the performance of this innovative, new technology”. We had to design the blower to be compatible with the current system and facility. We fast-tracked design and manufacturing, and collaborated closely on mechanical, electrical, and control details. The Metro District said in their feedback that they looked forward to the innovative benefits of the new blower, including simplified operation and maintenance, quieter operation, greater turndown, and the potential to be more efficient with regards to electrical power. 

What are your biggest challenges?

Reaching large cities to demonstrate the benefits of the 1 MW and the Gas Turbine Blower to retrofit old technology blowers that have been in operation for decades. This will require market education on benefits of the products as well.

Ideally, we’ll need to grow our teams as well, such as building in the UK and getting 20-30 people there. We’re also looking at South America. Investment and working with capital partners. There’s a lot of interest from this side at the moment!

WEX NEWS: Pernille Ingildsen is looking for smart, organic solutions in a volatile world – learn more at WEX Global 2020 in Valencia next week

Pernille Ingildsen is Senior Chief of Projects at Denmark’s Kalundborg Forsyning A/S and is on the panel for discussing ‘Optimising Asset Management through Smart Operation and Maintenance’. She is currently involved in developing an innovative new water treatment works drawing on groundwater.

 

Why do you come to WEX?

‘Currently, we are particularly interested in nature-based systems – more organic solutions, and will be looking out for these at WEX. The traditional industrial mindset is very rigid. There is a complexity to our task which is difficult to analyse, so we need to be inspired by nature, using the concept of ‘Factory as Forest’, biomimicry. The big question I want to ask and present on is ‘How do you build flexibility into a static system?’

Tell us about your new water treatment works

In the past, stable, old world, you just built a new waterworks by making one slightly bigger than the one that went before it – but things have changed. In today’s VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous – you have to look at a lot of different scenarios and variables. In our first advisory board meeting recently, six focus groups of different interested parties, including young people, customers and utilities, met to discuss the many different ways that a new system could be organised. Unexpectedly the main outcome from all of these groups was that the system had to be flexible.

What about the circular economy?

We would like to have a circular economy closed loop system for the water. This is not possible in Denmark right now at the moment – industrial customers don’t yet have confidence in it – but in SIngapore and Namibia it happens, and within 5–10 years, Denmark’s agenda will have changed. So we need a system which can take changing visions on board; yet drinking water treatment plants are very custom-made and not easy to change in terms of configuration. Almost as soon as it is ready it will need to be changed – which is huge in terms of planning. We need to model different solutions and see what could work. 

What’s next?

Competition is the old story; collaboration is the new story. Denmark is collaborative and has some amazing examples such as the Kalundborg Symbiosis on our doorstep, but it is still too low level. We need to be imaginative, logical and transparent – and we need to look on the macro scale. In the future, in order to have the flexibility needed to deal with change, the city should be soft – not steel and concrete.

WEX NEWS: Lila Thompson reveals British Water’s plans to collaborate, coordinate and co-create  – more at WEX Global 2020 in Valencia next week

Lila Thompson is Chief Executive of British Water. At WEX Global in Valencia, she will be co-chairing a session on Day 2 of the conference called: ‘Water Reuse from a Circular Economy Perspective and Potential Risks from an Unregulated Approach’. We caught up with her in advance to see what British Water is up to…

 

Why do you come to WEX?

WEX is a great place to meet representatives from water companies, leading contractors and consultants who might want to partner with UK companies. I also want to witness and understand real life case studies from other countries and utilities, which are well represented and accessible at WEX.

What’s happening at British Water?

I took over the role of Chief Executive on 3 December 2018, which is a completely different role from my previous one of International Director. I have spent my first year getting to know our members, finding out what their concerns are and how I can best support their businesses.  British Water rebranded in November 2018, with a new logo which you will have seen. The ‘Women in Water’ series of events has recently been set up to encourage and support the recruitment and retention of women in the sector. Alongside this, we have pledged that 30% of British Water’s Board will be female by 2025, and that every panel must contain at least one female participant. We also held two conferences on ‘collaboration’ were held in April 2019, one in partnership with the Water Research Centre (WRc) and one with Xylem with the support of Ofwat.

What else is new?

We are keen to continue to assist Ofwat with their new strategy and innovation fund, making sure that supplier concerns are heard and that blockers to innovation are removed. The recently launched £200m ‘innovation fund’ should encourage the supply community to work together to stimulate innovation in the sector. Ofwat is also encouraging a ‘Centre of Excellence’– possibly a collection of virtual and physical zones – so that instead of water companies independently running trials for innovative systems individually, they can work together and share results. British Water has a pivotal role to play in this in terms of bringing people together to share best practice, goals, and to encourage data sharing.

What about the Circular Economy

Lots of British Water member companies are in this space. Recently the UK water sector has committed to go Net Zero Carbon by 2030, and it’s the first sector to do this! How we get there is obviously a big issue now – we are running an event in June, focusing on sustainability for the environment and the effects of climate change.

Exciting – so what’s next?

We are also focused on international innovation and have an advisor for Brexit who is closely monitoring the situation to see what the impact will be on the supply chain. Lots of utilities have already made plans, but we are interested to see how the trade negotiations will develop. We have trade missions to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Vietnam coming up, to cite a few. At Davos recently, water was high on the agenda. Will the water sector be able to rise to the challenges? I think so, absolutely, but the era of rivalry is over. Now it’s all about the three Cs of Collaboration, Coordination and Co-creation – and that’s what we have to focus on to rise to the Challenge!

Good news on the Awards – still time, we’ve just extended the deadline to 14th Feb!

Your absolute final date for entry in this year’s WEX Global Awards is this Friday, 14 February 2020, and all final submissions must be received no later than Saturday 15 February.

The even better news is that it’s extremely straightforward, and you can enter directly here.

This year’s lucky winners will be announced and trophies presented at a special Gala Dinner & Awards Ceremony on Tuesday 3 March at WEX Global 2020, which is to be held at the state-of-the-art Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain.

Any questions, simply contact Alison Ireland by phone on +44 (0)7973 404560 or email at alison@wex-global.uk

Meet the Judges: Lila Thompson, Chief Executive of British Water

We are delighted to welcome Lila to the WEX Global Awards judging panel for 2020! For 12 years, Lila has been British Water‘s International Director, providing strategic advice to companies on international opportunities and guidance to the UK government on trade policy. Since December 2018, Lila Thompson has been the new Chief Executive of this key water institution, acting on behalf of Britain’s water sector companies in the UK and abroad.

The latest WEX Global Awards 2020 judge to be announced is …

… (breath-holding pause) … Miguel Ángel Ayllón! Miguel, pictured left, is the Chief Operating Officer of water industry digitalisation experts Idrica, based in Valencia, Spain. Developers of smart water technology product, GoAigua, Idrica are also kind enough to be the host utility and lead sponsor for WEX Global 2020. GoAigua! Go Miguel! Go WEX Global!

WEX NEWS: Jaime Barba talks networks, networking and digital twins – visit Idrica live at WEX Global 2020 in Valencia —

 

Jaime Barba Sevillano is CEO of Idrica, the Spanish company responsible for the development of the GoAigua technology solution, which spun out of Global Omnium, the water utility behind Valencia’s water management. Idrica is the host company of WEX Global 2020. He is chair of the session: Where Engineering Meets Scientific Discovery: How Deep Tech is Transforming Water, Energy and Smart Cities. GoAigua developed a nuanced technological solution to Valencia’s water management which went on to be adopted by 400 cities globally.

Why do you come to WEX?

We hope to meet with utilities that need help to optimise their networks. Sometimes we can also assist engineering companies that need the type of smart-decision systems we can offer but that don’t have in-house teams.

How did you begin your ascent?

Ten years ago the IT and Operational departments of the Valencia water utility, Global Omnium, combined to manage their assets.  In order to be able to adjust in the field, we monitored using 700,000 sensors connected to a central management module. Then we began analysing the data and soon learned that the most important thing was to convert all that data into information. So we called in the mathematicians. They helped us develop sophisticated ‘digital twin’ software. A digital twin is a replica of a real-life thing – in this case a system – which can be applied to other relevant situations.

Then what happened?

By around 2015 we entered the world water market. We saw that a lot of utilities didn’t have any digital transformation in place or underway. We were also useful to companies and countries that had more limited physical infrastructure. We now have 1.4m installed meters globally.

What about the Circular Economy?

Relating and connecting assets intelligently leads to saving on energy and saving on water – so for example in the Colombia project, where they are looking for leaks, it reduces the amount of treated water which is wasted. In terms of energy, one of the utilities we have worked with in Spain has saved €1m / year on its energy bill. Crucially, we are able to reduce risk in the network, and have knowledge of what is going on both with the network and with the water. We have undertaken a line of work aimed at strengthening social commitment wherever we operate, whether promoting environmental protection, contributing to curbing climate change or solving supply problems.

What’s next?

A big project for 2020 is the Qatar network where we have seven contracts in place, the seventh won recently. We are contracted to monitor the system and analyse the data, looking for leaks and improving efficiency. In Gandia, Spain, we are currently reading 40,000 smart metres of city networks. We always begin the process by working out what utilities actually need. In one case a utility asked for a ‘smart metering’ solution, but what was actually needed was a proper billing system. It is important to put the correct processes in the right order so you don’t create a mess – rather than defaulting to a big, inappropriate solution. We are also tech-agnostic as a company – we analyse the market constantly and see what’s best/most appropriate for the situation, and recommend a solution. We have an in-house system whereby we can see the stats of all the different relevant solutions (loggers, monitors etc), watch the behaviour of each one, and compare them.

 

 

 

WEX NEWS: Gaëtane Suzenet explains the need for innovation in water innovation models – ahead of her session at WEX Global 2020 in Valencia!

Gaëtane Suzenet is Managing Partner at International Impact Partners (IIP), a company she started 3-4 years ago while working with Aster and is planning to set up a new fund in the not-too-distant future. At WEX, she’ll be on the panel of The Innovations Forum sponsored by Aqualia:

Who do you want to meet at WEX?

I’m keen to meet start-ups at any level – even early-stage ones would be good. I also want to get to know large tech companies in order to understand what has changed in their investment strategy, and what they see as their innovation and investment targets.

What do you do at IIP?

I work in an advisory capacity to large companies, start-ups, utilities, aiming to push the investment stance forward, and in the water sector, this means there is a lot to do. Investors have had a bad experience with water innovations, because, on the whole, they were more focused on tech than the actual business model. And public money has mainly been injected into the energy sector, rather than water. The result is that a new approach to water investment is absolutely needed.

However, although the water market has been very reluctant to adopt water innovation –­ from 2015 onwards, investment and innovation have been two of the sector’s biggest challenges – the good news is that things have started to change.

An example is ‘Water Innovation Clusters’ [innovation-oriented networks involving business, government and other organisations] which demonstrate the wealth and breadth of innovation. Scottish Water, for example, is lead partner in the Water Test Network, the initiative for North West Europe (NWE).

But it is still difficult to get private investment money. For instance, in the UK, the framework is heavily regulated, and therefore hard to access if innovation is not incentivised.

Investors are opportunistic, and look at trends. The water sector needs to be made more attractive to them. How? One way is to make the returns short – and yes, they can be, but the market isn’t informed enough about this. Also, innovations are much more fit-for-purpose now – there are more niche markets now for technology – but more work needs to be done on informing investors and end users on what’s available, and what start-ups actually do. This is what I do with my ‘portfolio review’.

I find that the utilities and large tech companies who are my ‘end-users’ (I don’t like the word ‘clients’) tend not to be informed enough about innovation.

Technology is often seen as a cost, rather than a benefit, and that vicious cycle needs to be broken. ‘Test Networks’ are proving very useful in mitigating this, but utilities can’t waste start-ups’ time trialling forever. We need to go a step forward and build some business models, which enable to share the risk between the provider and the end-user. New forward models will de-risk investing in water.

Are there currently many investors into the water sector?

Unfortunately, no.  There are always ones linked to new concepts, such as circular economy, impact investment, smart cities etc, but it’s not easy to find pure water investment, especially in Europe, and we need to raise the profile of water again.

In the US, large tech firms have been investing in start-ups, and then they acquire them, which is quite encouraging, because it means it’s a key topic in their strategy.

Is there a European budget for water?

Yes there is! Horizon 2020 has been the biggest EU Research and Innovation budget ever over the period 2014 – 2020 with almost €80 billion dedicated to it. Water challenges have been obviously part of this programme and is included into the wider challenge of building a circular economy and a resource efficient society. The way they view investment is that for every 100 euros they’re investing into the Horizon 2020 programme, they will get 850 euros back to Europe’s GDP by 2030.

There’s plenty of appetite for developing innovation projects, a lot of seed money is available for start-ups, but the challenge is to scale up and stay active. In the US, Israel and Singapore things are more structured: there are more accelerators, and culturally it doesn’t matter if you fail!

We lack a global approach to the circular economy, but water – flooding as well as scarcity – will push things. In the last Global Risks Report from Davos, water was – again – in the top 10, so it constitutes a risk for companies, for productivity. For example, in France, water affects nuclear energy production, which provides 75% of energy. Yet, water still lacks consideration in the French top priority areas for investment and innovation!

Which technologies interest you?

None specifically, but there are lots of things which are super-interesting. In Europe, research and innovation projects produce a lot of interesting results that could be further exploited, whether it is for resource recovery in wastewater treatment plants or in digital water. We have also great technologies arising from a cross over between water and biotechnology!

How do you get Horizon 2020 funding?

The reasons companies don’t get  EU funding are because they don’t demonstrate enough knowledge of the environment in which they operate and how they can be better than their competitors, and they don’t always have a clear and realistic business strategy.

Everyone can apply for funding, but don’t apply if you can’t demonstrate the disruptive aspect of the tech,, and with a clear scale up strategy. And be positive: people tend too much to think they only have a 5% chance of success!

 

 

 

WEX NEWS: Melissa Meeker is building a Water Tower in Georgia – read more and meet her at WEX Global 2020 on 2-4th March!

Melissa Meeker is CEO of The Water Tower, the new non-profit innovation centre in Georgia, United States. She is building an innovation campus – and she wants to tell you about it!

Why are you interested in attending WEX Global?

WEX Global is a great event. I am most interested in how a digital twin can help in water utility management and am excited to see it in action at the GoAigua (Idrica) site visit. This will help me to get the support I need to make a digital twin a reality in US utilities. It will also be great to meet new people and develop relationships in this part of the world.

What is the Water Tower?

The Water Tower is a new innovation campus with a goal of advancing water resources management through an integrated approach to applied research, technology demonstration, workforce development, and public engagement.  The Water Tower campus is located in Buford, Georgia, U.S., next to the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, a world-class treatment facility, and the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, which conducts educational programming. The Water Tower name was inspired by two nearby water towers which displayed the slogans ‘Success Lives Here’ and ‘Gwinnett is Great’. The water towers, once a prominent landmark for Gwinnett, have since become obsolete and removed. Our goal is that The Water Tower campus will become the landmark for water innovation and a place where you want to visit and be a part of the water ecosystem. It’s a hub for water pioneers intent on changing the game to connect, collaborate and build solutions. We launched in September 2019 and programming in our four key areas – research, technology, training, and engagement – has already begun. Construction of the campus is ongoing and anticipated to be completed in 2021.

In addition to these areas, we are also spearheading digital innovation. Data in the water industry is currently siloed. Historically, U.S. utilities are very protective of their data and are not taking advantage of what this data can tell them. Our goal is to facilitate the use of data from utilities across the U.S. and internationally to create simulations for training, resilience planning and technology demonstrations.

What about the Circular Economy?

In my experience, with water needs increasing worldwide and climate variability impacting traditional rainfall patters, it is essential that the water industry embrace the implementation of the circular economy for water. My background is in water supply development and research, with previous roles including CEO of The Water Research Foundation (WRF), and Executive Director of South Florida Water Management District, as well as a wide array of other related water and environmental roles. It has been fascinated to watch the recent and wide-spread pushback on single-use plastics. More and more countries and citizens are embracing recycling in multiple industries, such as plastics.  In the water industry, we need to take note because water is an incredible renewable resource. We as a society need to improve our perception on the value of water, and The Water Tower will help us get there.

 

 

 

Idrica launches to bring GoAigua tech to the world … ahead of hosting WEX Global 2020 in Valencia!

We are pleased to introduce Idrica, the new Spanish company behind Valencia’s water management, responsible for the development of the GoAigua technology solution, which spun out of Global Omnium, the host utility of WEX Global 2020. The company specialises in digital transformation for the water industry, and provides services and technological solutions for water cycle management. 

Idrica was born with a brand engineering division with experience in management, operation and maintenance, engineering and consultancy offering high added-value services, such as: master plans, digital transformation, non-revenue water reduction, smart metering roll-out and analytics, Digital Twin, project management, technical support, energy efficiency and water networks and infrastructures management.

Smart Water Technology: GoAigua 

While the company has changed its name to Idrica, its smart water technology product, GoAigua (which you already know!) remains the same. GoAigua is the modular, scalable and vendor-agnostic solution which helps to build smart decision systems in organisations and provides each client with a holistic view of the entire water cycle. 

The technology – provided by Idrica – transforms water cycle management in the areas of drinking water, wastewater and irrigation. It developed a nuanced technological solution to Valencia’s water management system which went on to be adopted by 400 cities globally.

We invite you to head to their website, Twitter and Linkedin pages to find out more about Idrica and GoAigua!