WEX NEWS: Ryan Welsh tells us how he negotiates the rain, as City of Cincinnati goes solar – ahead of WEX 2020 in Valencia

Ryan Welsh is Chief Engineer at City of Cincinnati, Metropolitan Sewer District in the USA – at WEX 2020 he is joint chair of the critical session, Improving Energy Efficiency in Water & Wastewater Treatment. This session explores the drive towards carbon-neutral water and wastewater treatment, one of the key areas in which the water sector is combating climate change.


Why do you come to WEX?

“Primarily to get new ideas for how to deal with the challenges we have by learning from people in other parts of the world. Sometimes I see a solution that others have developed and I am able to apply it to something we are working on. It’s also interesting to learn about problems that other utilities are experiencing, but that we might not have, and in some cases to be able offer some new insight from an outsider perspective. I’ve been coming to WEX for years, for this reason – the international discussion and collaboration in such a positive and relaxed setting is invaluable.”

What are you up to in Cincinnati at the moment?

“Over the past ten years our utility has spent nearly two billion dollars upgrading assets and building new wet weather infrastructure such as high rate treatment facilities and stormwater separation projects. We’re under a federal mandate to eliminate overflows and we have much more to do in the coming decade. We are always focused on how to best apply our limited resources to get the most benefit for public infrastructure. In the past several years we have developed a robust asset management program to develop and prioritize projects. In addition, much of our focus has been on how to leverage the latest technologies to optimize existing assets, such as the deployment of remote sensors and controls to minimize sewer backups and overflows, and to maximize throughput in wastewater treatment facilities.  We’re endeavouring to build resilient infrastructure for less predictable conditions – we are seeing increasingly intense rainfall events, more frequently, and this is becoming a problem. 

What about the circular economy?

“The mayor of the City of Cincinnati is leading an initiative to reduce our reliance on fossil-fuel derived electricity and has recently entered into an agreement to install enough solar power capacity to coverage peak electrical usage of all the City’s assets within the next three years. The 20-year agreement is the biggest solar power commitment made by any US city to date. Since the water and sewer utilities are the City’s largest consumers of electrical power, this is going to push us to move towards more sustainable and creative methods. I think we will be seeking to reduce electrical consumption during the part of the day when the sun isn’t shining, so implementation of energy storage and conversion technologies will become more attractive.  In addition to some other ongoing utility-led initiatives that will reduce energy usage, we are currently working with APG-Neuros to implement a technology that would allow our aeration blowers to operate without the use of electrical power, and to eventually power our blowers with digester gas. Since the aeration process is the most energy intensive treatment process, this will have a big impact.”

WEX NEWS: Phil Reid of Tractebel takes us on an energy journey through Brazil, Mexico and Rugeley before landing at WEX 2020 in March

Phil Reid is the Head of Global Business Development for the Urban sector at Belgian engineering consultants Tractebel, a subsidiary of energy and services group Engie – at WEX 2020 he is jointly chairing a session entitled Energy – Water – Waste : Integrating the Circular Economy into Future Smart Cities.  The session will explore what a sustainable world looks like, and ask what roles all stakeholders can play in the mission to decarbonize energy consumption – from the way we heat and light buildings, transport goods, people and services, to the way we process water.


Why do you come to WEX?

“WEX is one of the few events that actually looks at the circular economy as linking water, waste and energy all together. This is going to be extremely relevant going forward.”

What’s a big priority in your opinion?

“We have to get close to Zero Carbon – quite a few cities are aiming for zero carbon by 2050 (and sometimes 2040 or 2035). The USA is playing catch up on this one now and starting to move quickly. As consultants, Engie are aiming to reduce to zero carbon in 20-25 years with concession models and climate investment.”

What’s Tractebel up to at the moment?

“In the area of sustainability, we’re working on three interesting projects in Brazil and Mexico – two in Brazil, one in Mexico. In Mexico we’re consulting on energy efficiency in public hospitals. The project, funded by the European Investment Bank, is at the stage of technical feasibility. The technologies to be used include solar thermal, CHP, efficient lighting & controls and Building Energy Management Systems.

“In Brazil we’re working on projects to replace street lighting in Maringa, a medium-sized city in the south of the country where the plan, using smart-tech, is to convert all the lighting to LEDs, and install remote control and monitoring of the lighting in order to achieve impressive cost efficiencies and reduction of CO2 emissions. LEDs have a much longer lamp-life and can be dimmed depending on the ambient light levels. Detailed design work is in under way as we speak.

“We’re also working on a state schools project in Porto Alegre in Brazil’s southern-most state of Rio Grande do Sul. We’ve identified a ‘energy efficiency’ opportunities in schools, using PV solar panels on the roof, LED lighting, smart controls and electrical storage. Many state schools don’t have heating or air-con despite the country’s climate. There are 99 state schools in total in this project and we’ve taken a sample to assess what’s needed (overall in Brazil, the education system is a mixture of public and private). The standard of education varies, but considering the conditions they’re operating in, it’s extremely good.

GIZ– the German Society for International Cooperation – and the European Investment Bank are mainly behind these kinds of projects, and they have to test their green credentials as well as bankability and work out where the returns are. The money comes back from the savings made in efficiency. Long-term savings are made over a number of years, so they have to be long contracts of 20-30 years.

“Instead of property, many banks and investment funds are now tending to look at energy projects, but they need technical input in order to assess their viability. They very much want to ‘be seen to be green’. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being tested, and people won’t invest in banks if they’re not happy that they are saving the planet – but of course they still want to pay back at a rate they consider acceptable.”

Where are you in water?

“Although my work is mainly concerned with reducing energy demand, and energy generation, within the water division there are all sorts of projects, as well as a desalination portfolio. I went to Saudi Arabia twice last year, where the urban side of things has just got going, and I’ve been focusing on several urban projects with Engie, which will include a water component.”

Tell us about the Rugeley project

This is very exciting! The Rugeley project is a major 15-year redevelopment of an old power station site bought by Engie in the county of Staffordshire, UK, turning it into a sustainable and smart community destined to be Zero Carbon by 2038.

“While the cooling towers will be blown up at some point this year, there’s a sub-station building which has to stay intact, as it’s part of the National Grid. The new Rugeley development will be built to the side of the existing community, which takes up a third of the town in size. The idea is that the new development will export zero-carbon energy to Rugeley in the future.

“The aim is to make it a popular residential neighbourhood and place of work, with a network of pedestrian and cycle routes, and open spaces connecting Rugeley with the surrounding area.

“It’s particularly interesting as Engie owns and will be the developer of the whole site. The formal details are being worked on, but in terms of technology there will be district heating, heat pumps, solar, efficient buildings, on-site private grid.

“There’s no industry planned, but there will be a small amount of retail. As for water, there will be full control over one system, so recycling and some water treatment can be done. The concept involves an effluent system, waste collection, and maybe some AD (Anaerobic Digestion), achieving economies of scale.

Around 1,800 houses are planned for the development, and over the past year various obsolete buildings have been demolished, with more to come including the blowing up of the remaining power station’s landmark towers.

What’s next – carbon capture?

“I think Carbon Capture is going to play a big part in what’s happening. There are some really creative solutions in this area, and greenhouses are particularly good – they’ve embraced this heavily in Holland. If you have a CHP plant next to greenhouses it creates a negative carbon scenario – waste heat from the CHP plant is recycled to heat the greenhouse, CO2 from the flue gases absorbed by the plants and electricity exported. These types of systems are being rolled out in the UK now.”

Any thoughts on Brexit?

“It’s a complex area but I think it should be okay for us as the business is pretty global; we need to sit tight and see what happens.”

What’s in the ‘pipeline’?

“We have a big urban project with Engie in the North-Western French city of Angers, 30-50-year projects in the USA and Canada (Ohio and Ottawa), a district cooling scheme in the Philippines, and involvement forthcoming in Saudi Arabia.”

WEX NEWS: Mohsen Mortada talks COLE’s wastewater success as Toronto goes Google-smart ahead of WEX 2020

Mohsen Mortada is President of Cole Engineering, a Canadian consulting and advisory services group involved in planning, engineering and P3 in the water, transportation, urban development and environmental sectors. At WEX 2020, Mohsen is chairing the Leaders Forum. This important panel discussion allows industry leaders from different sectors to share their vision of the future of the water and energy sectors in the context of changing economies and climate change. The session will also explore common themes in infrastructure development from various geographies and economic maturity.

Why do you come to WEX?

“The thing I like best about WEX is to see the old faces and keep up the relationships – even though I’ll be inviting some new people along this year. But it’s the spirit of the event that makes it special.”

What’s Cole Engineering up to at the moment?

“We have a contract to design one of the largest municipal WWTPs in Canada, a greenfield project in Western Canada. It’s an exciting opportunity. In the less developed parts of the world, green field wastewater treatment plants are common place.   The project has been prompted by a change in Canadian wastewater treatment regulations. The client has to increase their treatment capacity, to include tertiary treatment, and they will decommission their current plant.

“I am proud that COLE has been involved in two greenfield wastewater plant projects in Canada. COLE’s performance record and reputation, as well as strong client relationships are key to our continued success.   As regulations change, and in light of climate change, we will see more projects to modernise infrastructure”

“We’re also working on a crucial biosolids facility in Ontario, where Cole Engineering is based. The team conducted an economic and social analysis of the best method to treat these biosolids.”

“We have also been involved in many climate-induced projects as well as water modelling projects to optimise system performance and manage contamination in waterways.”

What about the circular economy?

“We are involved in water recycling, rain water storage, and energy generation projects.   Our planning and design teams have been very active in shaping the industry to create and support circular economies within our sphere”

And smart tech?

“In terms of smart tech, we’re involved in the federal Smart City Challenge, which is awarded to 5 cities across Canada for designing smart-city solutions. This initiative, which aims to improve quality of life through innovation, data and connected technology.  COLE has been involved in the Smart Cities initiative for the Toronto Region which provides the blue print for a smart region in the Greater Toronto Area (over 7.5 million people)

“In Toronto currently a smart city is being built on the Waterfront by Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google. There have been a lot of issues with privacy in terms of getting this to happen, and originally it was conceived to be 12 acres, whereas now it’s 5 acres. But it’s a really exciting project.

COLE has been investing in artificial intelligence as well to help provide better value to our clients.   This is in the form of internal systems and external services we offer clients.

Any other business?

“Here at Cole we’re placing a lot of emphasis on ‘resilience’ these days, and this will only continue to grow. We also continue to support our CSR initiative through support of Water for People, and working on projects like the Toronto Wild Life Center.”

WEX NEWS: Jon Brigg of Yorkshire Water talks Esholt positive living, gasification and phosphates ahead of WEX 2020

Jon Brigg is Manager of Innovation at Yorkshire Water (YW) in the UK – at WEX 2020 he will be jointly chairing a session entitled The Smart Approach to integrating Water, Energy and Waste. The session will explore the degree to which integration – for the purposes of sustainability – of water, energy and waste is beginning to gain traction, and it will examine the challenges and opportunities presented by these big three environmentally impactful resources.

Why do you come to WEX?

“At WEX everything is face-to-face, which provides much better value and quality for both parties. It’s much better to be able to see several suppliers in one place than to have them come into the office to see us.”

What’s Yorkshire Water up to at the moment?

“YW is involved with the Esholt Positive Living – a 30 plus-hectare circular economy project between Leeds and Bradford in Yorkshire, UK, for which planning permission was sought in June 2019. This ground-breaking sustainable residential and commercial development – on the site of disused wastewater treatment assets – plans to include an exemplar housing development of 150 highly sustainable homes.

“Our focus with regard to water is on trying to get Per Capita Consumption (PCC) down to below 80 litres a day, from 140 litres currently. This will be achieved by using water-efficient technology, and working with the supply chain – obviously including areas such as toilet flushes, the use of rainwater, and reuse. We will create an independent, stand-alone treatment system – so householders can water their garden, for example, without feeling guilty. But changes are still needed – particularly in building regulations – and for actual change various things need considering. In the case of households having a second water system which comes from the sewage works, for instance, there are risks to be considered and solved, such as kids drinking from the hosepipe etc.

“In the area of energy, things are still in the planning phase. The houses are highly passive, so it’s difficult to get a heating budget for them. The development plans to deploy the ATC Gasification system  they demonstrated at Lower Brighouse WWTW. The system  turns sludge into a hydrogen-based syngas which is used as fuel in engines to generate electricity and heat. YW also utilises AD but conversion rates for a gasifier are higher than for biogas, making it more efficient. As for Anaerobic Digestion (AD) (the most commonly used technology for sludge treatment), it produces methane, but also organic residue , biosolids.  The system represents a cost.

YW is currently looking for a way to commercialise the ATC process.

“One other current water issue is microplastics.  Water and wastewater treatment processes are highly efficient at removing microplastics but they then concentrate in waste sludge with clear implications for biosolids to land.

Anything ‘in the pipeline’?

Projects planned for the next five years include Continued exploration and deployment of  Smart Networks system for distribution and sewers, involving 30,000km distribution pipes and 60,000km sewer pipes. The challenge with smart systems is to rationalise everything – there are many unknowns, such as how to utilise up-to-date sensing technology, how to interpret the data, and how best to interrogate the networks.”

We also have to consider the delivery of the National Environment Programme   where over 80 sites are required to remove phosphates prior to effluent entering the receiving watercourses. The standard solutions are not sustainable, and the supply chain hasn’t yet come up with sustainable and cost effective ways of recovering phosphorus – recovering, rather than removing.

“Yorkshire Water is also working out how to use ‘passive systems’ – such as exploring a  ‘lazy river’ concept – constructing a river profile on redundant land within wastewater treatment works where natural systems can be managed. They’re finding out if x amount of river is able to remove y amount of phosphorus. In order to do things differently they need to get an understanding of the probable outputs first.

For all 80 sites it is likely that a combinations of high and low technologies could be deployed rather than the traditional single asset solution.

“The next five to 10 years will see a huge shift towards dependency on digital systems, but it needs the right people to make these things happen. There are total solution providers, but utilities need to work out what their actual needs are so that they procure a system/systems which works for them. They need to define their outcomes so they can get the right supply partners.”

Gaetane Suzenet announced as WEX Awards Judge!

Gaëtane SUZENET has 25 years of experience in the water and environmental sectors, ranging from innovation, policy-making, financing, to working with start-ups, utilities and large companies. She is currently Managing Partner of International Impact Partners, an international Advisory Company. Previously, she acted as Director of European Affairs at Water UK, the UK water utilities’ professional association. She then was Managing Director of a French Water Innovation Cluster, in which she set up 14 industrial innovation projects amounting to 20 million €. In the investment field, she acted as Venture Advisor with Aster Capital, an international venture capital fund with $300M under management. Gaëtane was also a member of the Investment Advisory Committee of the “FPCI Emergence Innovation 1” seed fund within SOFIMAC Innovation. Gaëtane was an Independent Board Member of the French listed company AMOEBA. She sits on the Executive Committee of the European Innovation Partnership on Water, under the aegis of the European Commission.

Oliver Grievson announced as WEX Awards Judge!

Oliver Grievson is a leading global expert on instrumentation and smart wastewater system having worked in a variety of jobs ranging from operational management of water and wastewater systems in the Falkland Islands to Process Engineering & Design at Grontmij (now Sweco) and Yorkshire Water to Technical Management in wastewater flow and instrumentation at Anglian Water. His most recent role as a Technical Lead at Z-Tech Control Systems allows him to use his extensive experience to support clients across the Water Industry.

Oliver also volunteers extensively outside of his day job and is currently the Executive Director of Water Industry Process Automation & Control (WIPAC), Chairman of Wastewater Education 501(c)3 a US wastewater charity and the Deputy Chairman of the Sensors for Water Interest Group. He also serves on a number of national and international technical panels writing books, national & international standards, white papers, articles and helping in the development of the Water Industry in its drive towards its Digital Transformation into a Smart Water Industry in line with the principles of Water 4.0.


Ryan Welsh announced as WEX Awards Judge!

Ryan Welsh is the Chief Engineer at the City of Cincinnati, Metropolitan Sewer District. In this role he manages a capital improvement program that is expected to cost nearly $2 billion over the next ten years. This includes design and implementation of projects required by a federal consent decree to reduce wet weather overflows using smart sewers, source control, and increased treatment capacity. Ryan holds engineering degrees from the University of Cincinnati and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is licensed by the state of Ohio as Professional Engineer and as a Class 3 Wastewater Operator.