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. It is estimated that the amount of energy wasted as a result of traditional methods of water processing and delivery can be reduced by up to 25%. Energy consumption at a typical municipality in the U.S. is distributed through various departments, with a majority of the energy consumption accounted for at the water/wastewater facilities. With the volatility of energy prices, need to improve sustainability, continuous changes in legislation and increased instances of funding available for energy efficiency initiatives; there is greater opportunities to improve energy and operation efficiency at these industrial facilities.

Many utilities have initiatives that are focused on saving energy, 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 collaboration of storage through reservoirs. These actions focus on the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of the facility rather than directly affecting energy conservation; energy conservation is a byproduct of these efforts. Incorporating the Industrial Internet of Things (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 through the hype and identify those technologies that are applicable to their needs and can deliver an immediate positive return on investment. Within this utility sector, the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications should and are slowly 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. The IIoT solutions available allows integration of sensing, communications, SCADA and analytics capabilities that has been emerging over recent years. With the increase in pervasive computing devices, lower cost sensors that collect and transmit data, new analytic tools and economic data storage options; a utility can capture more data in real-time at a lower cost and in some cases from previously inaccessible areas that improves field, system and plant performance.

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

  • Operators are empowered– the use of mobile devices, cloud connectivity and data analytics provide operators real time information for better decision making
  • Assets are optimized– smart sensors to continue the flow of information and allowing for data to be easily collected from the field and from parameters previously unmeasured
  • Smart control aided– enabling 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 a OT Cybersecurity solution in addition to the available IT security deployment

To enable energy efficiency at utilities, IIoT should be implemented, so that engineering analyses can occur on the additional real-time data from remote systems, motors and other larger energy consuming equipment, which makes analysis quick, straightforward, and more accurate. IIoT 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. The solution for these issues can be found in Intelligent Pumping, which incorporates IIoT. This approaches result in energy savings, increased equipment lifetime, and maintenance cost reductions by providing higher quality and precise data.

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, modelling, leveraging IIoT technology and computational intelligence. A pump systems’ performance is measured in energy consumption and pumped water/wastewater flowrate. Many pumps typically operating below their best efficiency point (BEP), resulting in excess energy being transmitted into vibration, heat and noise – all which increases 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 life cycle cost (LCC) instead of initial purchase price. A motor is considered under-loaded when it’s in the range where efficiency drops significantly with the decreasing load. Most electric motors are designed to run at 55% to 100% of rated load, with maximum efficiency typically near 75%. If the motor drops below the 50% rated load, and the efficiency tends to lower dramatically. Many pump and motor upgrade projects are now including power monitors at the individual pump/motor level instead of just at the major electrical distribution point to address power quality concerns from the power utility. There are low cost IIoT based power monitors available for both single phase and three phase applications and using one brand of power monitors allows customer to stock a smaller number of parts because they can be used in a wide range of applications. In many cases, operating motors are either overloaded, resulting in overheating, or under-loaded, working at 40% of their capacity, which causes huge spikes in energy consumption. Oversized motors have a higher initial cost and are very expensive to repair and maintain. By implementing the most applicable IIoT platform, owners can use collected information to design proper sized motors, thus saving money on the original investment. IIoT-based conditional monitoring ensures the motor never reaches its threshold limit, which means the motor lasts longer and suffers fewer failures as well as can give early warnings of electric motor vibration/temperature problems. Condition monitoring saves time from unplanned production outages and unnecessary work of emergency repairs avoided.

In discussions with Peter Gabor of Emerson Process Management, we asked for his perspective on customers view on IIoT and Energy Management.

  • (Q) What is the primary goal that Energy Management addresses in your water/wastewater customer minds?
  • (A) O&M costs continue to increase year over year straining customer’s budgets. With energy costs comprising a large portion of their overall costs, the intent is to offset a percentage of cost increases through reduced energy consumption.
  • (Q) Is this driven by informational needs or is data to be correlated directly with costs and rate structure?
  • (A) Both. We’ve seen the need to understand the largest consuming assets and then determine the poorest performing assets. Depending on our customer’s purchase agreement, peak load shaving is an attractive area that’s been investigated and utilized over the years. Often times it’s not only the direct costs of energy usage that is of value, but the impact that incoming power quality has on the reliability of assets.
  • (Q) Is there an upfront understanding by operations of how customers’ facility is billed by the power utility?
  • (A) Frequently not throughout the organization. Although, it does vary based on the complexity of the agreement with the power producer and how well the staff is informed of the agreement. Unless energy usage is a line item on an individual’s budget or a metric in which they are evaluated, energy usage often takes a back seat to more evident pressing needs.
  • (Q) Are customer efforts targeted towards identifying the energy usage by MCC, process or individual equipment?
  • (A) All three. For energy usage we often recommend to start at the incoming power source and work towards the individual assets. Monitoring switchgear is often the easiest as most equipment has this information readily available, but it provides no granularity of the downstream devices being powered. Monitoring individual equipment provides the visibility on usage and efficiency degradation over time. However, there is a cutoff point where smaller individual equipment is just too difficult to justify the expense to monitor. The approach that has worked best for us and our customers is to look at the entire process in conjunction with an asset’s energy usage as they are often correlated.
  • (Q) What is the customer approach to make IIoT data beneficial and who is the target audience?
  • (A) The data needs to be presented to the individuals who have the responsibility to act on it. Right now we often see them pulling in the data just to monitor and there is no context to it. However, these systems tend to be disjointed and require a better understanding on how the operation of the equipment impacts the reliability of the equipment and efficiency of the process. Operations, Maintenance, and Energy Managers who have responsibility over the energy budget all can benefit from this information.
  • (Q) Are there typically baselines that capture the company policy, accountabilities, investment decision-making and internal organization related to energy management?
  • (A) Yes, without a baseline there is nothing to compare against to measure improvement or degradation. The metrics vary and often have to be tailored to the initiatives of the organization, but providing reliable and data when needed has empowered them to make informed decisions on their assets.
  • (Q) How should the customer’s control system and IIoT interact/integrate to provide maximum benefit?
  • (A) Bringing the data into one central location paves the way for information sharing, data analytics, performance monitoring, and optimization. Cyber security should be at the forefront to ensure the data feed is reliable. Once the connection is protected, then the data quality and accurate time stamping of the data received should be considered which includes verifying the reliability and accuracy of the instrumentation installed. KPI’s and actionable information can then be presented to enable management to understand the impact on equipment usage and also to operations to potentially modify their behavior to reduce energy consumption. With this framework in place, process optimization can be realized and compared against baseline metrics using the KPI’s developed.
  • (Q) What does IIoT mean to most of your customers?
  • (A) Any monitoring equipment with an IP address. The ability to read in periodic data through geographically dispersed locations economically to enable an enterprise data management system. IIoT poses a potential vector for unwanted access. Cybersecurity solutions need to be considered.
  • (Q) Does IIoT provide an avenue to replace traditional remote monitoring sites that have significant upfront costs?
  • (A) At an individual transmitter level – yes, as the cost of installation is more attractive. From a traditional metering or pumping station, communicating to a central facility is not new. We are seeing communication technologies in this area provide a more reliable data feed with redundant data paths. We see IIOT enabling more geographically dispersed instrumentation with a few IO where previously only large clusters of instrumentation was economically feasible.

Combining IIoT, Automation and Energy Management initiatives, we can provide the water utility industry a historic future. With IIoT sensors now offering a substantially cheaper price point with new battery powered networking solutions; the price barrier has been significantly reduced. Cutting-edge, IIoT water solutions 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 industrial internet of things and the cloud services that support this ecosystem also offer the benefit of bringing world-class analytics within reach of smaller production facilities. Conversely, efficiencies driven by increased IIoT based remote monitoring and control also expose water systems to cyber-attacks 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.

Peter Gabor - National Sales Manager, Emerson Power & Water Solutions. Strategic planning and crafting of the national sales/marketing plans plus manage key projects at the strategic level. Has over 13 years’ experience in the industrial controls industry and holds bachelors degrees in both Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. His experience has primarily been in Water/Wastewater engineering, implementing and project managing automation solutions, with special emphasis on Municipalities to help ensure that project goals are achieved.

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