WPL Miranda RBC makes UK wastewater debut
Onsite wastewater treatment specialist WPL has brought a highly efficient rotating biological contactor (RBC) to the UK commercial, industrial and municipal market for the first time. The WPL Miranda RBC, which is manufactured to German design standards, has been available internationally for the last five years, but an exclusive UK distribution agreement was recently signed with WPL.
Utilities and a variety of commercial premises - including hotels, office blocks and industrial developments - can require package wastewater treatment plants on site.
The WPL Miranda RBC is an environmentally friendly system, which operates without chemicals and exceeds Environment Agency discharge standards.
The units are suitable for permanent installation or can be hired where temporary treatment is required. They can be used for specifications from 100 up to 20,000 people.
WPL’s Sales & Marketing Director, Simon Kimber, explained the advantages of the system, “This next generation RBC technology uses solid shafts designed to overcome any issues with shaft failure, resulting in lower whole-life costs for operators. Its flexible modular design means that it can be configured to serve communities ranging from 100 upwards population equivalent.”
In WPL’s Miranda RBC secondary treatment system, disks are connected to a shaft and slowly rotated by means of a motor. Each rotating disc spends 40% of its time in the wastewater and 60% in contact with air.
Repetitive rotation allows the discs to accumulate micro-organisms, which use the available oxygen to convert the pollutants in the wastewater into carbon dioxide and water. Simon Kimber says that the WPL Miranda is a significant step-up from RBC treatment systems previously available in the UK.
“Not only do the discs rotate faster,” he says, “the innovative design has turned the traditional disc system around by 90 degrees, so that the flow runs through the rotating discs rather than along them. This increases the surface area of media per square metre and the contact time between the bacteria and the settled sewage, increasing the efficiencies of the process.
“The result is final treated effluent which exceeds the EU standards for discharge and can be safely released into the environment.”
It is important that treatment plants are scaled appropriately for the size of the site and the flow and load anticipated. The modular design of the WPL Miranda RBC makes it possible to increase capacity by adding discs or modules. It is also possible to bypass specified modules to reduce capacity and save energy.
The packaged units are easy to transport and install – reducing onsite health and safety risks – and can operate in series or in parallel. Furthermore the WPL Miranda RBC has been subjected to rigorous FEA analysis, which confirms compliance with all water utilities specifications.
The UK’s RBC market for utilities alone is estimated at £10 million per annum, and Simon Kimber believes there is significant opportunity for WPL to take a share of this and increase its client base.
“We have responded effectively to our customers’ requirements and introduced an improvement to what is currently available in the UK market,” he says. “The WPL Miranda RBC is next generation technology, our competitors are only offering first or second generation. We have recognised marketplace demands and strengthened our portfolio accordingly.”
Finite Element Analysis on the WPL Miranda RBC
WPL Ltd requested TriVista Engineering Ltd carry out Finite Element Analysis on the WPL Miranda RBC to test the structural integrity of the tank. The results of the FEA testing confirms a minimum of 25 years long life.
WPL Ltd is an internationally recognised leader in the design, manufacture and supply of standardised and bespoke environmental sewage, wastewater and commercial kitchen grease management process solutions.
Image caption: The WPL’s Miranda RBC can provide environmentally friendly biological wastewater treatment on residential, commercial and industrial sites
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Units 1 & 2 Aston Road
Aquamatix brings the Internet of Things to the Basingstoke Canal
The Basingstoke Canal has contracted with Aquamatix, pioneer of the Internet of Things in water, to provide real-time monitoring and control of water resources, to allow the public to access information about the canal, and to reduce energy consumed by canal operations.
The Basingstoke Canal was built in 1792-8, and is now a leisure facility serving the community from the River Wey Navigation near Woking, over 32 miles to Odiham in Hampshire. In order to use a limited water supply as efficiently as possible, while reducing the energy consumed in managing the canal operations, leading-edge technologies from the Internet of Things will be supplied by UK company Aquamatix.
The system will provide a variety of tools for canal rangers to monitor water levels and flows and pumping station activity. Information from the system will also be available to the public via a website, allowing canal users to better enjoy and understand the canal and its environment.
The project has been jointly developed by public agencies including Surrey and Hampshire County Councils, the volunteer sector in the Basingstoke Canal Society, and the private sector in Aquamatix, an SME based in Surrey.
James Taylor, Strategic Manager for the Basingstoke Canal said, “We are delighted that both owning county councils are investing in this leading technology so we can provide a better service to all users of the canal and neighbours. By monitoring and controlling the water in the canal we will improve our control of winter flood waters, whilst reducing canal energy use, and allow more boats to enjoy the beautiful canal environment through more efficient water use in dry summer months.”
Laurie Reynolds, Managing Director of Aquamatix noted, “We are delighted to be working with the Basingstoke Canal in this UK-first implementation of Internet of Things technologies to this unique environment.”
The system will be deployed over the winter, ready for the start of the season in April 2015.
About the Basingstoke Canal Authority
The Basingstoke Canal is jointly owned by Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. The Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA) manages the Basingstoke Canal as a maintaining agent on behalf of the two County Councils and six riparian borough and district councils. The BCA has no legal or corporate identity itself and the staff of the BCA are employed by Hampshire County Council on behalf of the partnership.
Aquamatix, based in Redhill, Surrey, is pioneering the Internet of Things and new wireless sensor networks in the water industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection of real-world devices using standard protocols, allowing monitoring and control of a wide variety of assets, systems, devices or ‘things’.
Aquamatix’s WaterWorX™ platform combines real-time measurements and performance data with asset and GIS data to gain knowledge and understanding of asset condition and system performance. The insight gained can be used to optimise new investment to balance capacity, obsolescence, demand and risk.
Image caption: (Left to right) Laurie Reynolds, Managing Director, Aquamatix; James Taylor, Strategic Manager, Basingstoke Canal; John How, Volunteer, Inland Waterways Association and BCS).
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Offering the right financial mix of products and services is a challenge to any business, but can be critical for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the water industry. The water utility regulator’s five-year Asset Management Period (AMP) cycles have unwittingly produced a well-documented cycle of ‘boom and bust’ for the supply chain.
This can mean few or no utility sales for three to four years, then one or two years worth of sales in six months, all with very tight delivery times and thin margins. The impact of exposure to this flux on cash flow can be catastrophic and has led to significant consolidation within the supply chain and subsequent reduction of competition over the years.
This is certainly the case with companies that are over-reliant on large capital plant sales. However, businesses relying too heavily on lower value, higher turnover parts and consumables can also get into difficulties. This is, firstly, because such provision is demanding on labour and administrative resources, but also because commoditisation can put prices under pressure and cause margins to shrink.
Maintaining the balance of sales and revenue between the plant, parts and service business components, which is never easy for companies, is the way to survive boom and bust. Historically, companies have often shied away from offering service and maintenance, particularly those that have historically been product focused.
Yes - service is labour intensive. Yes - service does not directly deliver the margins that capital plant can. However, an orientation towards service does have some genuine merits:
by Matthew Wheelock, Chief Executive of Wheelocks
Consolidation in the UK water industry is gathering apace. As reported by WWTonline last month, engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald has snapped up its design-and-build joint venture partner, Bentley Holdings, while Dutch consultant Arcadis is still pursuing a merger with London-based Hyder.
This comes in a year where global giant GE has bought out privately owned UK anaerobic digestion specialist Monsal in March, and a near miss saw the anticipated merger of contractors Balfour Beatty and Carillion fall through, at least for now.
But these examples are just the first whisperings of what analysts expect to become a boom in acquisitive activity. The utilities themselves are not immune, with Ofwat indicating that it is softening its stance on takeovers.
There is currently a downward acquisitive pressure on the UK water sector from both national and international forces. Without exception, every water-related company this author has spoken to in the last 12 months, with a turnover greater than £3M, has been approached to sell the business. Such offers are often being made on a monthly basis.
Once a business generates profits of £1M or more and/or turnover in excess of £10M then purchasers will emerge. Unsurprisingly, companies generating good sales - £5M and £10M being the magic markers - and that are growing or expanding, will fare best as buyers muscle in.
What is now being observed is that companies below this threshold are also being eyed for takeover. To profit from this window of opportunity, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) need to be proactively marketing their businesses and making sure they are visible. By getting their house in order and raising their profile, companies give themselves the best chance of showing up on the radars of prospective purchasers.
Market analysts have been saying for some time that the UK water treatment sector currently has too many companies offering similar products and services. This has resulted in an erosion of overall margins, causing some less robust companies to fall by the wayside.
The indications are that the sector is ripe for a period of consolidation, much like the IT sector was 15 years ago. SMEs should be investing for the future, demonstrating that they are prepared to secure the best talent for their businesses and proving that they have robust management strategies in place.
Investors will be looking for companies that are not only creating growth, but that are able to demonstrate that their growth in sales is sustainable over the long-term.
At present, margins are getting thinner for all companies, but this will not continue indefinitely. Once the period of consolidation is over, utilities be warned, the remaining companies can expect to be in a position to demand higher prices and will be more profitable - the board at Carillion anticipated reducing the cost base of the proposed merged group by a healthy £175M per annum, had it gone ahead.
Companies surviving the consolidation period will be those with a solid unified approach. They will be stronger, leaner and will be in a stronger negotiating position than before.
The remaining companies will generally be larger, but those companies with a specialised or unique market offering will also be in a stronger negotiating position than before. International investors are looking for companies with technologies that are desirable, transferable and scalable to the global market, with the US$4B+ Indian water market currently attracting particular attention.
SMEs in the UK are in a unique position, being based in the country with the most privatised water sector in the world. Many of the owners of the privatised English water utilities, often overseas funds, are looking to benefit further from the low risk and predictable returns granted in this highly regulated market. Indications are that their horizons are broadening to explore additional opportunities in the sector.
The message for contractors, treatment companies, technology companies and anyone else looking to maximise the opportunities brought about by consolidation in the market is: act straight away. Adopt a scientific approach to sales with the aim of delivering compound growth, while putting in place a plan to get your business noticed.
Engaging the services of a specialist business development consultancy like Wheelocks can help in identifying suitable investment partners and maximising companies’ potential. Growth and greater visibility are accepted goals for any business, but at the moment, there are considerable additional benefits.
The message for utilities is – expect more change across the sector, keep a close eye on the market and plan for price rises across the supply chain in the medium to long term. The UK water industry is in for a turbulent time and will be a leaner place in which to operate once calm returns.
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Image: Portrait of Matthew Wheelock
About the author -
Matthew Wheelock is the Chief Executive of Wheelocks, a sales and business development consultancy that specialises in developing strategies for water sector businesses seeking to make acquisitions or be acquired.
He has a proven track record of delivering growth strategies for SME companies. By providing a valuable support role to companies throughout the water industry supply chain, including utilities, engineering, industrial, professional service and IT companies, Matthew helps clients achieve profitable compound sales growth.
With a background in financial services, advice Matthew has delivered has enabled clients to obtain significant returns on investment.
A training course from Suppy UK designed to help reduce surge effect in water networks has received a Certificate of Accreditation from the Institute of Water - a first for the Institute.
Recent research shows that human error in how hydrants, valves and pumps are operated is a major cause of surge effects in water supply networks. Surge is a major cause of leaks and bursts in pipe infrastructure. The good news is that much of this harm can be avoided by modifying the way the network is operated.
This can be achieved by ensuring operators are thoroughly trained, which utilities must do under their duty of care. Supply UK’s Calmer Networks Training, which can now be delivered on-site or online, ensures that candidates achieve an understanding of the causes of transient surge in the water network.
It also provides training and assessment of acceptable levels of competence when operating a range of valve technologies found in the water network. A licensed network operator itself, Supply UK is currently delivering 40 training sessions for approximately 600 employees of Thames Water and its partner companies. A permanent test rig has been set up at the utility’s facility at Kempton Park, Middlesex.
Fire authorities too have been keen to take advantage of Calm Network training. Poorly managed emergency use of standpipes can create bursts that cost millions to utilities and risk outing water supplies during critical fire incidents.
The benefits of this training go far beyond reducing surges though, they include: