Partner of choice in TRILITY

When looking for providers that know how to operate, upgrade, and maintain water treatment plants, TRILITY is one Australian name that features strongly.

When looking for providers that know how to operate, upgrade, and maintain water treatment plants, TRILITY is one Australian name that features strongly.

TRILITY plays a vital role in our modern world by providing water, wastewater and environmental solutions which contribute to a better quality of life for those communities they serve across Australia and New Zealand.

TRILITY is involved in the delivery of hundreds of water infrastructure projects, currently servicing over 450 facilities. They have extensive operations, spanning from the far south of Tasmania to the most northern tip of the country and across the Tasman.

Today, TRILITY’s business combines many services, solutions, products, and applications to suit each client’s needs. TRILITY continually pivot to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, markets, regulations, and climate conditions. TRILITY’s solutions are built on its heritage and expertise, a dedication to doing it right, and a passionate commitment to providing its services effectively, efficiently, safely, and responsibly.

Francois Gouws is the Managing Director of the TRILITY group of companies. He has been with TRILITY for more than 14 years and truly understands the business -. What makes him unique is his entrance into the water and wastewater industries.

“I did not follow a conventional route into the industry,” said Gouws. “I came in from the industrial side, so I treated and recycled industrial water. That means I worked with power stations, refineries, paper mills and mine sites.”

That was early in his career, and Gouws thrived on the challenges within the industrial water sector; however, this was not the only reason he continued working in the water and wastewater industry.

“When you work in this industry, you know that you are making the world a better place, and that is what really gets me out of bed every day,” he said. “We know that we are not the only ones making a difference because it’s all part of a big team effort that sees us, as an industry, contributing towards making the world a better place.”

Where did TRILITY come from?

TRILITY was established in Australia in 1992 as a subsidiary of the British utility Northwest Water, which later became United Utilities. They were, therefore, known as United Utilities Australia or UUA. During 2020, ownership of UUA changed from British to Japanese, with a consortium consisting of Mitsubishi Corporation, the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, and JGC Corporation acquiring full shareholding of UUA.

“Following that change of ownership, I was appointed as Managing Director,” said Gouws. “There have been massive changes, including almost tripling our business since I joined, and we have also expanded our business to cover Australia and New Zealand.”

Gouws is particularly proud of how TRILITY has diversified from pure treatment plant operations and asset ownership to include manufacturing, specialised construction, servicing, equipment sales, specialised consulting, and training.

“We also have a digital arm called KDX that optimises treatment plant operations, and we are now also a Registered Training Organisation (RTO #46056),” he said. “There is further diversification and expansion to come.”

Part of the initial challenge for TRILITY was to become a standalone company. This was a shift from being a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest water companies (United Utilities).

“That was a fascinating time,” Gouws said. “We had to create a consolidated standalone group and tax structure for 36 companies and joint ventures, including establishing a constitution, a new name and brand (TRILITY), a group board and a new strategy. We also paid special attention to the culture of the business, and this journey continues as, ultimately, TRILITY is successful due to the skills and dedication of our wonderful staff”.

In 2018, ownership of TRILITY changed to BEWG, a listed business in Hong Kong, with minimal disruption.

Data changing the water industry

“The volumes of data that can be collected and stored have notably changed how the industry works, and we live in exciting times. All this information can help water and wastewater treatment plants become more efficient.

“It’s not just about having all the data – it’s about how an organisation uses it,” said Gouws. “We can capture data from the vast array of sensors and store it and then combine it with more data such as meteorological before analysing it to seek patterns and understand what it all means. It’s opening incredible opportunities for us to predict what will happen, enabling us to act on the forecasts to ensure we attend to matters before they occur.”

Gouws sees benefits from the rollout of artificial intelligence across the industry. It’s helping companies like TRILITY to assist them in optimising the operations and maintenance of treatment plants. We can today operate plants at higher availability than what was envisaged years ago while using less chemicals and power.

“We’re only just starting to understand the future of this technology,” he said.  “And that’s why we have been investing in KDX’s product optimisation software.”

TRILITY has developed its digital expertise through its KDX business. Although the KDX name is new, the product brings real-world knowledge and a proven track record to offer water operators a software solution to take their water management capabilities to the next level. KDX provides a suite of solutions available separately or bundled, based on the client and the individual operator’s needs, with water and wastewater treatment capabilities.

“KDX is specific to treatment plants, and we can readily demonstrate 15 to 20 per cent improvements in the operations of the plants,” said Gouws. “That includes energy use, chemical reductions, environmental impact, and compliance. We have high expectations of these future applications, including geographies beyond Australia and New Zealand.

Challenges for TRILITY

One of the challenges facing TRILITY is the distribution of Australians across the continent. Over 26 million people are distributed over more than seven and a half million square kilometres. Having the right people in the right location can be challenging.

“That is particularly the case for us because we do a lot of projects in regional areas,” Gouws said. “If we operate a regional plant, we need local employees based in the communities we serve to operate the plants and work on the projects. TRILITY is proud of how it upskills its employees to work on those projects and one of the reasons we expanded our training capabilities.”

When TRILITY assesses a project for new or pre-established projects, it has many criteria, and the ability to upskill local employees forms a key component of how TRILITY makes their decisions.

“As a company, TRILITY specialises in taking over the operations of older treatment plants, then upgrading them while we operate them,” he said. “The projects we work on are not easy, and that’s where our expertise and experience come into play. We ensure we use our decades of operational knowledge and know how to deliver treatment plants that can be reliably operated. We excel at managing the interface between the plant operators and the construction crew. Similarly, minimising the complexities of those interfaces is a speciality for TRILITY. Its knowledge base lends it towards older plants that need upgrading. The goal is to operate and then upgrade the facilities to ensure outcomes that benefit the customer, community, and environment.

“A prime example of this capability would be our project in Rotorua in New Zealand,” said Gouws. “We are operating a large wastewater plant for the Rotorua Lakes Council while at the same time expanding and upgrading the facility.

Modular solutions

A significant focus of work for TRILITY is its modular solutions. It uses the latest technology to design, build, install and service/operate modular water and wastewater treatment solutions. TRILITY tailors modular solutions to meet its clients’ water treatment challenges. It does this in partnership with clients covering the utilities, municipal, resources and industrial sectors.

“Many of these solutions are being implemented in regional Australia, specifically on mine sites,” said Gouws. “This is because mines tend to be in remote locations. Those applications lend themselves to modular construction with minimal on-site installation and commissioning. We have six factories and service outlets across Australia and New Zealand, allowing us to service any area across these two nations.”

The key differentiator is that TRILITY is an operator at heart. This changes how it designs these plants, as they are designed from an operator’s perspective. It makes their plants easier to operate and more reliable.

Learning from everywhere

TRILITY is also part of a partnership with Barwon Water to operate and maintain Australia’s largest thermal drying biosolids facility. TRILITY operates and maintains the facility that services the Barwon Water service region. The region produces 54,000 tonnes of biosolids each year. The facility places TRILITY, Plenary Environment and Barwon Water at the forefront of responsible biosolids management in Australia.

“From our perspective, Barwon Water is a very progressive and dynamic water utility,” said Gouws. “They were early adopters of thermal drying technology in Australia”.

When looking at biosolids, Gouws finds a lot to learn from every project. The rapid technological advancements in biosolids are an opportunity for TRILITY to learn and do better.

“Keeping abreast with what’s coming out in all the research and new developments is an area we are observing very keenly,” he said. “The Barwon Water plant is more industrial than a traditional water treatment plant.”

Gouws pivoted back to his earlier point about recruitment being key. TRILITY has taken a broader perspective on its recruitment for these projects.

“We need people from a more industrial background to work on these projects,” said Gouws. “Some of the ideal personnel have experience in refineries more suited to the processes used in thermal drying.”

Industrial and government work

Gouws’ experience indicates no significant difference between government and industrial projects and clients. He believes that the more important issue for all projects is weather patterns and climate adaptation. This influences the volume of capital and operational expenditure.

“The changing weather patterns drive the water industry far more than anything else,” he said. “Australia is heading towards an El Niño climate pattern, resulting in extended dry periods. Spending in the water industry tends to increase in the lead-up to and during these patterns. Both industrial and municipal clients also seek to recycle more water leading up to and during periods of drought. Local councils also tend to look at improving their water supply projects for source water tends to deteriorate during droughts.”

“During dry periods, we also experience bushfires in rural and regional areas across Australia. We must account for the materials that make their way into waterways nationwide following such events.

On the flip side, when Australia goes through a wet season, more investment is required to deal with floods and excessive periods of rain. That presents its own set of challenges and requirements.

Overall, climate change adaptation is resulting in significant investment in Australia and New Zealand’s water industry.

The future for TRILITY

TRILITY’s focus will be to continue to serve and focus on its existing customers, contracts, and the communities it serves.

“TRILITY has big plans for its future as we continue to expand and diversify,” said Gouws. “We have been following the convergence between energy and water with exciting new technologies being developed. Ultimately, we do not rush into things – we make calculated and considered decisions.”

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