The development of software to monitor and control the treatment of industrial effluent is one area that has attracted considerable interest in recent years. Indeed, the use of software solutions in planning all types of industrial development from concept to completion is now widely accepted. Modelling the options before beginning development enables companies to examine the widest range of alternatives and solutions at least cost.
Modelling can be applied to almost every aspect of industrial operations, whether
the goal is to minimise use of resources, introduce new processes or expand
existing facilities. In addition, so-called ‘intelligent equipment’, incorporating
embedded software, is set to make a significant contribution to improved control
and monitoring of production in many sectors of industry.
A sizable proportion of these costs has necessarily been passed on to customers.
Many companies are struggling to reduce the impact of these increased water
charges and comply with effluent discharge limits imposed under the Local Authority
Pollution Control regime.
A new mantra is emerging for companies wishing to cushion the impact of these
increased charges: ‘reduce water consumption, optimise processes, and minimise
effluent generation’. It applies to most industry sectors, but particularly
to those, such as the dairy, brewing, pharmaceutical and metals industries,
that use large quantities of water – and hence generate potentially large amounts
For example, many breweries discharge, as effluent, up to 70 per cent of the
water that is supplied to their sites. Advice on saving water and reducing effluent
is available from the water utilities and government agencies, such as Envirowise,
but there is also a growing band of consultants offering software solutions
that can help optimise processes and minimise effluent arisings.
The international water and environment consultancy, WRc, has developed a range
of practical, cost-effective solutions for water, wastewater and industrial
effluent treatment challenges. Software solutions are available for odour management,
risk and reliability modelling, and water and wastewater treatment processes.
Packages such as Polecat and Plan-It-STOAT (Plan-It) can help
companies improve their waste treatment processes, reducing water consumption
and effluent generation, thereby making worthwhile savings on water charges.
Both Polecat and Plan-It are Windows-based modelling tools with wide ranging
Polecat has been used successfully to model the effluent from fermenters and
waste tanks at a brewery site in the North-East of England. The model can estimate
waste arising in terms of a range of parameters, such as flow and chemical oxygen
demand (COD). This enables the user to assess the possibility of re-using wastewater
in applications where mains quality is not essential. It can be used to schedule
tank cleaning and reduce water consumption, thereby optimising cleaning cycles
to reduce peak flow and improve operational efficiency. At one brewery it has
even been used to modify wastewater treatment, resulting in reduced discharge
Plan-It-STOAT was also conceived as a tool for modelling the load and flow
of waste arisings from industrial processes. It can be used in any industrial
application where the waste is biodegradable, though it was initially proven
in sewage treatment. The package has a detailed hydraulic capability allowing
it to even out loads – in this instance the flow rate and biological oxygen
demand (BOD) – of the effluent. ‘Smoothing out’ the flow in this way brings
the maximum flow rate closer to the average flow, achieving a steadier flow
rate and avoiding large surges that can overload the treatment plant.
Turn the tide
This ‘smoothing’ capability means that, in the event of needing to expand the
plant, the scale of expansion can be optimised to accommodate actual need, rather
than building in unnecessary overcapacity. Plan-It can determine the point at
which increasing the load would exceed the capacity of the plant’s pipe systems
to transport effluent, and when the whole plant would reach overload, and can
also be used to demonstrate the relative investment benefits of, for example,
activated sludge versus anaerobic
Many leading industrial companies are already reaping the benefits of using
software to solve the challenges of industrial effluent treatment. Others will
inevitably follow their example in a bid to turn back the rising tide of higher
charges for water and wastewater services.
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