Maintaining resilient, low carbon UK water infrastructure which is fit for the future
Author: Produced in association with the Water Industry Journal, featuring John Bryan and Hywel Woolf of Costain. Published in March 2021.
A new world of innovation is being directed by Ofwat and the water industry is embracing the opportunities to find better solutions to the challenges in our changing world.
John Bryan, water business development director at Costain, comments: “Ofwat is looking for transformative innovation, while at the same time promoting a more collaborative approach between water companies, academia and the supply chain.”
“And that is where Costain can add value. We have the consultancy services and both the practical and established digital know-how to enable water companies to respond better to the big industry challenges of ageing assets, increased customer expectations, system resilience and the impact of climate change.”
Collaboration for long term success
There has never been a call for collaboration of this scale in the water industry as there is now. The challenges proposed by Ofwat and faced by water companies all support the need for collaboration to drive higher performance, deliver at a lower cost and ensure the solution is sustainable for the environment, the community, and the long term.
John: “Innovation is at the heart of Costain and the solutions we deliver for our clients. Helping water companies meet their commitments through innovation projects involves sharing our insights and extensive experience from other sectors including energy, defence and transportation.”
Tapping into cross sector experience
A prime example is the green project delivery Costain is currently carrying in collaboration with Welsh Water, Cardiff City Council and specialist technology providers. The project ‘Hy-value’ will convert sewage-derived biogas into hydrogen which can be used to provide clean energy to South Wales, helping to improve air quality and decarbonise transport in the region.
“This particular project is assessing the generation of hydrogen from biomethane, to ultimately fuel fleet vehicles and potentially go further to inject hydrogen into the natural gas grid.”
Effective collaboration was key, said Costain’s discipline lead for environmental consultancy, Hywel Woolf. “The drivers here are climate change and decarbonisation to support meeting the water industry’s 2030 targets for achieving Net Zero.”
Welsh Water is in the vanguard of the movement towards sourcing clean fuels for fleet vehicles and as such, Costain’s remit is to help establish the business case and, later, build the first demonstration plant to begin putting theory into practice.
John Bryan said: “Three other water companies have now expressed interest in projects similar to the one we’re supporting Welsh Water with and, there are many more opportunities for transferring the knowledge and skills we have.”
Another example of cross-sector knowledge share is the Network Innovation Competition funded project ‘Resilience as a service’ where Costain is working with partners in the power industry on a project designed to ensure continuity and resilience of energy supply to remote communities through the use of battery storage.
John: “Resilience and future proofing infrastructure is another priority for the water industry and we have been exploring parallels with the work our energy team are undertaking.”
“Rural communities can be reliant on a single cable for their energy supplies and come bad weather, the service can be inconsistent, potentially impacting on the reliable operation of the local water or wastewater services. By leveraging our experience in the electricity industry, we can bring all that experience and knowledge to our water industry clients.”
Hywel: “Being able to build resilience in such places is important in the context of delivering a reliable service to customers, whether that is water, power or taking away waste. It is fundamentally about delivering social value to the most remote and isolated communities.”
The synergies between energy and water are clear when broken down to the overall aim and outcome. However, the application of innovation to the specific needs of the water industry is where Costain can provide a solution orientated approach combined with deep domain and operational knowledge of water assets and infrastructure.