Water and wastewater utilities leverage IIoT for energy management

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies and strategies help water and wastewater utilities advance energy efficiency goals. See applications: 7 IIoT benefits below.

By Anil Gosine September 10, 2019

Growing scarcity of fresh water resources, growth in urban population, environmental regulations and process inefficiencies are all contributing to a dilemma in the water/wastewater industry. Connected machines and devices are reshaping the way utilities are operating, allowing them to make smarter and better-informed decisions by using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies and strategies. The amount of energy wasted as a result of traditional methods of water processing and delivery can be reduced by up to 25% through more dynamic, analytics and real-time system monitoring.

With the volatility of energy prices, the need to improve sustainability, continuous legislation changes, and increased instances of available funding for energy efficiency initiatives, there are greater opportunities to effectively manage fresh water supply and safely process wastewater. Those leading the IIoT efforts within utilities must articulate the value of how the program will tie into business strategies and help deliver on solving problems.

Overall equipment effectiveness, utilities

Many utilities have initiatives that are focused on energy conservation through the use of motion-sensitive energy efficient lights, limited time use of HVAC systems, solar panel installations (primarily based on electric utility grants), energy efficient devices and system-wide storage collaboration through reservoirs. These actions focus on the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of the facility rather than directly affecting energy conservation, which is a byproduct of these efforts. Incorporating the IIoT, in contrast, has and can enable direct energy savings for the smart utility of today.

Disruptive technologies are emerging at an unprecedented rate, and it is challenging to know which technologies offer genuine savings versus those that may be rendered obsolete before they achieve their potential. It is challenging for organizations to decipher the hype and identify technologies that are applicable to their needs and can deliver an immediate positive return on investment.

Within the water/wastewater sector, IIoT applications are being piloted to create new value in information about elements of business processes that manage existing assets for increased reliability, optimization, supply chains and customer relationships. IIoT implementations allow integration of sensing, communications, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and analytics capabilities that has been emerging over recent years.

The increase in pervasive computing devices, lower-cost sensors that collect and transmit data, new analytic tools and economic data storage options makes it possible for a utility to capture more data in real-time at a lower cost. In some cases, the utility can gather information from previously inaccessible areas and improve field, system and plant performance.

Designing for IIoT

System professionals must design the architecture to deliver on the potential of IIoT ensuring that:

  • Operators are empowered with mobile devices, cloud connectivity and data analytics, which provide operators real-time information for better decision-making.
  • Assets are optimized: smart sensors continue the flow of information and allow for data to be easily collected from the field and from parameters previously unmeasured.
  • Smart controls enable tight integration between operational and informational technology for better decision-making in the wider enterprise.
  • Cybersecurity focused: more connectivity demands an increased awareness and posture through an operational technology cybersecurity solution in addition to the available information.

Technology security deployment, intelligent pumps

IIoT should be implemented to enable energy efficiency at utilities. This allows engineering analyses to occur on the additional real-time data coming from remote systems, motors and other larger energy consuming equipment, which makes analysis quick, straightforward and more accurate. IIoT also strengthens the capabilities for real-time alerts, ability to predict energy demand, usage patterns, and ways to optimize energy consumption when integrated with industrial control systems data sets.

Energy efficiency is becoming an issue many utility owners are focusing on. It is estimated that a majority of pump systems are oversized, many by more than 20%. With electricity costs accounting for 40% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a pump, managing the energy of this asset is key. Intelligent pumping, which incorporates IIoT, is a possible resolution. This approach saves energy, increases equipment lifetime, and cuts maintenance costs by providing higher quality and precise data to operate.

Data science, modeling

One major source of electricity usage in water/wastewater facilities involves the pumping and aeration equipment systems. Implementing a data-driven framework for improving the performance of water/wastewater pumping systems has been realized using data science techniques, modeling, leveraging IIoT technology and computational intelligence. A pump system’s performance is measured in energy consumption and pumped water/wastewater flowrate. Many pumps operate below their best efficiency point (BEP), resulting in excess energy being transmitted into vibration, heat and noise. All of these increase maintenance and energy costs. When equipment is not optimized for best efficiency, pump systems consume maintenance budgets by decreasing the mean time between repairs. Organizations must focus on total lifecycle cost (LCC) instead of initial purchase price.

Many existing consumer options for wireless connectivity have failed to meet the needs of industrial applications. Reasons for this include poorly designed wireless communication technologies for wide area field networks and lapses in security and reliability. To address the security and reliability concerns, IEEE published a new standard for private, licensed wireless field area networks known as IEEE 802.16s.

Combining IIoT, automation and energy management initiatives, we can provide the water utility industry a historic future. With IIoT sensors offering a substantially cheaper price point with new battery powered networking solutions, the price barrier has been significantly reduced. Cutting-edge, IIoT water implementations are gaining traction with private and municipal water utilities, which see data and analytics as critical tools for overcoming the issue of aging water infrastructure.

The ability to interconnect things, services and people via the internet improves data analysis, increases productivity, enhances reliability, saves energy and costs, and generates new revenue opportunities through innovative business models. The IIoT and the cloud services that support this ecosystem also offer the benefit of bringing world-class analytics within reach of smaller production facilities.

However, efficiencies driven by increased IIoT-based remote monitoring and control also expose water systems to potential cyberattacks or hacks, which could affect delivery. As water and wastewater operations leverage new technologies, there must be an increased focus on using secure and reliable wireless networking technology, anomaly detection and re-designed system architecture.

Applications: 7 IIoT benefits

IIoT is improving water management through:

  1. Water leakage detection. Increases energy efficiency by correlating energy patterns to production and process variables. Analytics to detect water loss and theft and pressure management
  2. More efficient systemic water management. These IIoT water sensors track water quality, temperature, pressure, consumption, and more. These devices typically communicate directly with a water utility company to analyze the data and share with the consumer in an easy-to-understand format. Users can then understand how their consumption compares to city averages, previous months, and more.
  3. Water quality and safety monitoring.
  4. Transparency on wholesale and retail consumption. Respond to fluctuations in energy cost or new compliance requirements. Model performance in support of energy budgeting and contract negotiations
  5. Prescriptive maintenance on infrastructure. Predictive and preventive maintenance and anomaly detection through IIoT data platform
  6. Industry consolidation as technology firms build utility track records, and larger industrials find synergies within their product portfolios
  7. Incentives for manufacturers to develop comprehensive “smart pumping systems.”

Anil Gosine is global program manager, MG Strategy+, a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Industrial Internet of Things, automation, efficiency

Water and wastewater applications benefit from IIoT applications.

Interconnecting things, services and people via the internet increases productivity.

Benefits include energy efficiency, water savings, and water quality.


How could these IIoT examples help add to your industry advantage?

Author Bio: Anil Gosine has over 18 years of construction management, operations and engineering experience within the Industrial Sector with a primary focus on electrical, Instrumentation and automation process and systems in the U.S., Canada, and Central America. He has been heavily involved in the utility industry for over 11 years engineering, implementing and project managing a wide range of projects, utilizing a wide array of products and control system technologies within this industry segment. Anil is an active member of several professional organizations and independently participates in industry forums and technical committees for infrastructure development, industrial automation design and implementation, data analytics, and cyber-security processes. Anil is the global program manager for global industrial projects with MG Strategy+ and leads the Strategic Efficiency Consortium Security Workgroup with specific focus on cybersecurity metrics, threats, vulnerabilities, and mitigation strategies for ICS and security intelligence and analysis.