Addressing Aging Water Systems through Pump System Optimization

Addressing Aging Water Systems through Pump System Optimization

Industry Insights

by Mike Pemberton

The nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is facing a crisis. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 report card, water and wastewater infrastructure received a D when graded for capacity, condition, innovation and other criteria, including funding.

Earlier this year, technology experts met in San Francisco at the “Disruptive Resilience: Chief Technology Officers Map America’s 2030 Water Future” conference. Their goal was to identify breakthrough technologies that can transform how the nation’s water resources are managed to secure a better future. The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, has caused water quality and quantity to become one of the nation’s top priorities.

Water infrastructure problems are certainly addressable, but it will take a concerted effort from all stakeholders to bring about positive changes within a reasonable time frame. The pump industry has a major stake in upgrading infrastructure across all industrial plants as well as municipal and non-municipal water processing facilities, whether publicly or privately owned. While funding is always a constraint, using the growing body of knowledge related to optimizing pumping systems can reduce the cost of modernization.

Much of today’s existing infrastructure needs to be upgraded using new and improved technologies to increase efficiency and reliability. While some pump systems will have to be replaced because they have become obsolete or undersized because of production increases over time, many systems can be upgraded through re-rating, reengineering obsolete parts, component replacement or utilizing variable speed controls.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report that examined industrial motor system usage across all market segments. The U.S. Industrial Electric Motor Systems Market Opportunities Assessment report is being updated with plans for republication sometime in 2017. The exhaustive study found that only 4 percent of motor systems employed any type of variable speed drive technology, either mechanical or electronic.

Since this study was originally published, the push for energy efficiency has intensified and, while the exact number is unknown, the new study will likely show that 10 percent or more of motor systems employ variable frequency drives.

The DOE is evaluating proposals in response to a 2015 Funding Opportunity Announcement that supports development of the next generation of industrial automation. The goal of this grant is to reduce the amount of energy required by various industries by 50 percent in 2027. Accomplishing this goal will require new sensor and software developments accompanied by much wider use of variable speed technologies on at least 40 percent of industrial motor systems.

The award of the automation grant will bring together a broad assortment of capabilities encompassing big data analytics, Industrial Internet of Things, industrial controls and drives, modeling and simulation, and smart energy management. These transformative technologies will allow dramatic reductions in carbon footprint while maximizing the efficiency, reliability and productivity of continuous, batch and discrete manufacturing processes.

Optimizing pumping systems is essential to achieve these aggressive goals. In addition to wide application of variable speed pumping, the application of big data analytics, also known as predictive analytics, has a major role to play in extending the remaining useful life of pumps, predicting failures and optimizing the supply chain.

As new, lower-cost wireless sensors are developed and installed on pumps and other rotating assets—in addition to data stored in historical records such as computerized condition monitoring systems—a comprehensive system will emerge that links the equipment suppliers, end users and aftermarket service suppliers in real time. As this reality emerges, true predictive maintenance and just-in-time parts and repair services will allow industry to achieve enormous cost reductions through better resource utilization. Suppliers will see revenue streams switch from products as the predominate source to value-added, aftermarket services.

Contact MECO today to learn how we can help you with all of your pump optimization needs. 



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Mike Pemberton (author) is the senior technical editor for Pumps & Systems.