Australians generate around 250 litres produce around wastewater daily, so have a responsibility for its proper management.This wastewater contains a range of pollutants (chemical and microbiological) and needs to be properly treated before it can be discharged to the receiving environment, or safely recycled. This treatment cycle uses a great deal of energy and therefore greenhouse gas. This research will use a new suite of wastewater treatment energy benchmarks and KPIs being produced by project RP2017 and integrate them into a ready-to-go, fully-functional Benchmarking Energy and Carbon (BEC) tool.
Energy benchmarking is an approach whereby energy use key performance indicators (KPIs) are developed for a range of wastewater treatment operations and then used by industry to ‘benchmark’ their treatment process performance and inform subsequent process optimisation requirements for future energy efficiency savings.
The approach was first developed in Europe in the 1990s and while it has been used very successfully there for decades to save energy during wastewater treatment operations in a number of countries, it was only very recently (circa 2012) that it began being applied by Australian water utilities, with this pioneering work led by SA Water. Since then, the value of energy benchmarking has gained increasing awareness by industry and has begun being adopted by a number of major water utilities in several states (including SA, VIC and NSW). While this uptake of European energy benchmarking methods is a good first step for the Australian water industry to begin reducing its wastewater treatment energy and carbon footprint, such ‘off-the-shelf’ application of European energy benchmarks and associated wastewater treatment process performance KPIs is not ideal, as there are many important differences between how wastewater is treated, recycled and regulated in Europe vs. Australia which affect the validity and utility of this direct benchmarking approach application.
As mentioned above, the existing CRC project RP2017 (partnered with SA Water and Sydney Water) is currently developing a new suite of Australian energy benchmarks for the water industry to use wastewater treatment (and water recycling) process benchmarking and performance optimisation. While this research will deliver new important results in the form of these new locally-relevant KPIs, it risks falling short of delivering the desired nation-wide impact, as it relies on the national water sector taking the outputs of RP2017 and individually developing their own in-house benchmarking tools/methods for wastewater energy and carbon optimisations.
This project will ensure the benchmarks and KPIs produced will be fully integrated for the national water industry to use in optimising their wastewater treatment systems for energy and carbon savings. This new BEC tool will greatly increase the utility and accuracy of Australian water industry benchmarking activities, as well as facilitate the accelerated roll-out and uptake of energy benchmarking among smaller water utilities for more rapid realisation of potential energy and carbon savings across the industry.