Procuring innovative water asset management tech

The key to Australian water utilities dealing with climate change impacts is using innovative water and wastewater treatment and management technology. Procuring the right technology for your utility’s specific operations is essential to bring sustainability and innovation goals from ideas to reality.

The key to Australian water utilities dealing with climate change impacts is using innovative water and wastewater treatment and management technology. Procuring the right technology for your utility’s specific operations is essential to bring sustainability and innovation goals from ideas to reality.

Utilities can ensure their operations’ long-term success and resilience by introducing sustainable management strategies into an asset’s entire lifecycle. This requires prioritising the procurement and delivery of innovative technology, which can maximise asset efficiency, performance reliability, and the ability to withstand climate challenges.

Leading water and wastewater management solutions company, SUEZ, has released a new strategic plan for 2027, focusing on innovation and technologies within water management. The strategy focuses on developing new water and wastewater treatment technology, which can then be provided to treatment plants.

Every new technology changes the water industry’s core principles, and utilities are intensifying their efforts to adopt innovative technology. This involves a continuous cycle of discovering, examining, procuring and adopting innovation to improve asset capacity, operate more efficiently, improve customer service and provide long-term, cost-effective solutions.

Bringing technology experience from across the globe, SUEZ’s General Manager of Innovation and Performance, Eric Garcin, highlighted that technological innovation is a crucial driver of sustainability, economic growth and human wellbeing.

“Technological innovations bring a myriad of opportunities, not only from an operational efficiency standpoint but from a social, economic and sustainability perspective,” he said.

“While the benefits of innovation may cause short-term doubts, coupled with incumbent interests resisting change, with the right expertise, procuring innovative technology can lead to more growth and prosperity over the long haul. Moreover, the positive social and environmental implications can spread across entire territories.”

New strategies for plant upgrades

Victorian utility, South East Water, contracted joint venture John Holland, SUEZ and Beca to deliver an upgrade of its Boneo Water Recycling Treatment Plant. SUEZ led the procurement strategy for the project, bringing a sustainable approach to technology solutions and operational services to maximise the efficiency and performance reliability of the plant.

Initial works focused on incorporating leading low-energy nutrient removal and energy recovery processes to help South East Water achieve its emissions reduction target of 45 per cent by 2025.

With the plant’s construction, the joint venture prioritised modernising the plant by utilising several breakthrough technologies, including optimised anaerobic digestion, Nitrite Shunt, and anammox sidestream. These helped reduce South East Water’s reliance on grid electricity and improved capacity to serve the local community’s needs.

The project also prioritised transforming a conventional linear wastewater treatment plant into an ‘ecosystem’ that creates circular solutions. This involved reducing treatment expenses (including energy and chemicals) and decreasing its carbon footprint whilst increasing revenues from water, biosolids utilisation, energy recovery and nutrient recovery.

Procurement focused on collaboration and innovation

The procurement strategy allowed the joint venture to manage the interface risk of designing and constructing a complex technology upgrade, which resulted in Australia’s first SUEZ Biofactory.

The Boneo project outlined the critical success factors for enabling innovation that can be replicated for different utilities. These included clear communication, a collaborative approach, interactive sessions, a desire for leading-edge technology, a long O&M period, not requiring a tender conforming to the reference design, and a true focus on best whole-of-life cost.

Given the joint venture’s collaborative nature and the commitment from the designer, constructor and operator during the full contract term, Boneo was hugely successful. It prioritised performance through innovation, bringing South East Water one step closer to its commitment to net-zero emissions by transforming traditional wastewater treatment methods.

South East Water’s General Manager – Liveable Water Solutions, Charlie Littlefair, stated that collaboration played a crucial role in generating new ideas and promoted knowledge-sharing, which led to the procurement of innovative technology.

“For our Boneo project, SUEZ made sure that collaboration was at the core of our approach to innovation,” he said.

“By bringing together people with different ideas, views and experiences, the joint venture spurred new ideas, creating a joint momentum for disrupting the traditional way of doing things.”

In contrast, a typical design and construct contract usually has the designer selecting equipment that optimises the capital cost, often at the expense of operational cost and/or integrity. In the Boneo arrangement, the contractor was responsible for the O&M phase and integrated the Net Present Value into decision-making, leading to the best whole-of-life cost.

Working collaboratively crucial to successful water projects

Peter Segura, SUEZ’s O&M Manager for the Boneo WRP Project, said that by working openly with South East Water throughout the project, SUEZ was able to ensure that all parties were comfortable with the innovative technology being used.

“Clear communication was important to everyone involved – we needed to work together to ensure that South East Water ultimately received an asset that achieved their objectives and optimised capital costs without compromising integrity,” he said.

“We held interactive sessions with South East Water to test new technology and concepts, which helped us to come up with solutions that best met their needs.”

The benefits of SUEZ’s approach to the project and the implementation of technological solutions included decreased project costs, reduced carbon footprints, and lowered energy consumption. As a result, this provided other treatment plants with a blueprint to use when procuring new technology to produce the best outcomes.

Rachael Nuttall, Business Development Manager at SUEZ, said, “We want our approach to innovation and solutions to serve as a roadmap for Australia’s utilities and provide an outline for how we can transform procurement in water and wastewater treatment.”

“This will require a desire for leading-edge technology across the sector and a collaborative approach between our customers and communities.”

Procuring innovative technology helps utilities overcome their current sustainability challenges whilst future-proofing their assets. This enables them to gain the most value across the entirety of their assets’ lifecycle by creating customised solutions that best meet their sustainability, financial and social needs.

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