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.”

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