Europe/Middle East

Aeration distribution license secured in Sweden

Aeration company Sorubin has finalized a license agreement with newly formed small aerator specialist Sottelbin to launch small aerators suitable for applications such as wine farms and hotels across Europe.

Sorubin said the small aerator will run on 230V and can keep golf courses' water hazards in good condition during hot summers. Set for launch in late Autumn this year, the products will be manufactured in Umeå in northern Sweden.

Stefan Sandström, CEO, said: "As a legal framework for the protection and restoration of clean waters across Europe, the EU's Water Directive 2015 is a very strong driving force for basically every water intensive organization in Europe. I believe water treatment, and aeration being an integral part of it, will become even more important in the years to come. Energy efficiency is a keyword here, since fuel and electricity costs are certainly not likely to come down in the coming decade."

Poland waterfront development to be led by Dutch expetise

A 400,000 euro investment will see the waterfront area on the Warta river in Poland developed and restored with water safety measures to prevent flood damage.

Poznan Municipality and investor SwedeCenter have founded a partnership called "Na Rzecz Warty" with the Dutch consultancy firms KuiperCompagnons (Urban Planning & Design) and DHV (Engineering).

In recent years the Warta on several occasions has caused floods in Poznan, with major material and financial damage as a result. The canalized course of the river is no longer able to cope with the ever-larger peak flows.

The 'Development Strategy River Warta Poznan´' project hinges on drawing up a strategy that allows water safety measures to be incorporated in Poznan´'s broadly based social development while at the same time enabling spatial developments to be adapted to essential water management measures.

Field notes

Turkey invests into wastewater to help join EU

The city of Siverek in Turkey has awarded a three million euro contract for the build of wastewater treatment infrastructure and to increase efficiencies within its water utility department.

The contract was awarded to a consortium led by WYG International, including WYG Turkey and ER-GE Design Engineering Consulting. The project forms part of the 'Environmental Operational Programme' (EOP) conducted under the auspices of the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

Currently Siverek lacks properly designed sewerage system and the project aims to stop untreated effluent being discharged into the environment and provide treatment for a population of 100,000.

As an EU candidate Turkey is making investments to clean up its water and wastewater supply sectors and the project forms part of the European Union's Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). This is designed to help countries wishing to join the EU meet the requirements of the various European directives.

Starting in January 2012 the project is scheduled for completion in late 2015. Support and training will also be provided to the local Water Utility Department, a semi-autonomous body responsible for the management of the drinking water and sewerage systems.

South England's major WWTP on track

Southern Water's £300 million treatment plan that will treat wastewater for a population equivalent of 300,000 is on course for 2013 completion.

The Peacehaven Wastewater Treatment Works project is being carried out by 4Delivery, a consortium comprising United Utilities, Costain and MWH, and is also carrying out a £700 million programme of environmental improvement and water quality schemes for Southern Water across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, in addition to the Cleaner Seas for Sussex Scheme.

Primary treatment will include lamella clarifiers and secondary treatment will use biological aerated flooded filters to provide removal of COD and BOD, as well as eliminate suspended solids and particulate pollutants to give a high clarity effluent for discharge to the sea.

Following hydraulic testing and dry commissioning the first flow to the new works is scheduled for Spring 2012 with final completion by the end of March 2013.

UK ammonia removal

UK utility giant Thames Water has awarded Severn Trent Services a framework agreement to provide tertiary ammonia removal technology through AMP 5 – the asset management planning period from 2010 to 2015. The contract awarded to Severn Trent Services covers three years with optional extensions in two-year increments for the design, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of wastewater treatment packaged plants.

DCWW opts for B&V

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) has chosen Black & Veatch as one of three framework partners to help optimise efficiency across its distribution network.

Clean water modelling expertise will be provided through a three-year framework. SynerGEE hydraulic analysis software will be used in the construction and calibration of water network models. These will be used to assess hydraulic and operational performance for individual schemes.

East to West: China acquires nearly 9% of utility giant Thames Water

China's sovereign wealth fund, set up to invest the country's multi-billion foreign exchange reserves, has bought a 8.68% stake into one of the UK's largest utilities, Thames Water. China Investment Corporation (CIC) said in a statement that it has acquired a 8.68% stake in the utility, which is owned by Kemble Water, a consortium of investors led by Australian bank Macquarie.

The investment follows English Chancellor George Osborne visiting China who was quoted as saying: "This is a significant step by China. It is a vote of confidence in Britain as a place to invest and do business."

In August last year another English utility, Northumbrian Water, agreed to a £2.4 billion takeover deal with a Hong Kong based investment consortium controlled by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Dr David Lloyd Owen, managing director of consultancy Envisager, told Water & Wastewater International magazine (WWi): "For the international investor, the English and Welsh asset owning water utilities are a fascinating paradox.

"Within each five year cycle, they represent stability and predictability with the cash flow necessary to fund hearty dividends and the cash needs to ensure a substantial and low risk debt market. In contrast, the run up to each AMP is a time of regulatory uncertainty."

Owen added that the owners will still retain a majority stake in the utility.

He said: "The second sale of a stake in Thames Water in the past year would indicate that Macquarie has somewhat modified its original intention of having a major holding in Thames for decades. Even so, it will probably continue to hold a significant stake for some time to come.

"Like other water utilities the world over, the chief challenge lies in obtaining new debt finance as the money markets continue to contract. The strong track record of water-related debt helps, as seen in the significantly lower coupon on water related debt to almost all other industrial sectors, but we are some way away from 35-50 year bonds which were being issued in 2007."

Commenting on CIC's investment, industry analysts Frost & Sullivan research director Fredrick Royan, said: "The water utility services market still remain an attractive investment especially in stable water utility service markets such as the UK.

"The investment by CIC in Thames Water is also in a water utility that continues to perform relatively well at a time when water utilities appear to be buckling under some stiff efficiency related issues."

On the question of whether utility operations can be affected if investor financial performances deteriorate, other commentators referenced the past case of Enron's investment into Wessex Water.

Clive Mottram, head of water regulation at international law firm Eversheds, said: "As for the question of whether foreign investment in UK utilities makes good sense, the answer can perhaps be deduced from the collapse of Enron in 2001 who at the time owned Wessex Water. Wessex was unaffected by Enron's demise and able to continue delivering water and sewerage services, as it was protected by the regulatory ring-fence contained in the licences of UK water companies."

Mottram added: "This news can be seen as yet more evidence of the attractiveness of the UK water sector to investors. The acquisition also demonstrates that the Water White Paper, "Water for Life" published in December 2011 has indeed successfully calmed water investors' fears that regulatory change might reduce the sector's attractiveness as a safe long-term return based on asset-intensive operations.

"Indeed, the timing of this acquisition perhaps suggests that the White Paper has provided a stimulus for investment."

Fracking wastewater: are reed beds the answer?

The treatment of controversial hydraulic fracturing by-products in wastewater facilities has received a torrent of recent criticism, but could a reed bed process treating oil waste in the Middle East be one answer?

In December US environmental campaigner Robert F. Kennedy Jr. warned about treatment facilities taking radioactive contaminated wastewater from fracking processes in the Marcellus Shale region, US. Shortly afterwards the British Geological Survey started a project to estimate methane in groundwater levels before shale gas exploration gets fully underway in the UK, with Cuadrilla Resources already operating three sites in Lancashire.

Meanwhile in Oman, the world's largest commercial reed bed treatment plant is being expanded for oil-polluted water at the Nimr oil field, which was previously generating 250,000 m3 of contaminated water daily (see page 28 for full feature). The 235 hectare site is now treating 20% of this water with an aim to double this amount by the end of 2012. The plant layout includes a pipeline which enters the water treatment plant system and then an oil and water separator.

Dr Roman Breuer from Bauer Group, the firm behind the technology, told WWi: "I agree that fracking water should not be treated in common wastewater treatment plants as the water characteristic is most of the time completely different from domestic or any industrial wastewater.

"However, any wastewater can be treated. On the question of whether our application could treat fracking water, the answer is yes, but it depends. There are two main issues which on a case-to-case situation rules out the suitability of our application: high salt concentrations in the fracking water and the unpredictable flow patterns during fracking operations.

"Our applications are limited to low and medium salt concentrations and are designed to treat a constant wastewater flow over a long time period. In fracking the flow patterns are shorter and have a peak flow early in the operations, which favours mobile and modular treatment systems."

GCC water tariffs should be revised to hammer heavy users, says report

Better education will be needed to reform current tariff structures and address water scarcity in the GCC. Furthermore governments should restructure their water tariff structures so that pricing follows usage, with heavy water users paying the most, a new report has recommended.

Findings revealed by Booz & Company in a report entitled 'Fresh Water in the GCC: Addressing the Scarcity Problem' said this sort of pricing would reduce waste. Subsidies from increased tariffs can then "be directed at guaranteeing potable water for poorer residents, at supporting economic growth and other national priorities," it stated.

The report said that "it is not a given that GCC governments should cover all the costs of delivering and consuming water in their countries; on the contrary, the region's excessive use of water shows the unintended consequences of such generosity".

The report's recommended "slab" tariff system has been demonstrated in certain countries across the MENA region. In Egypt, the Alexandria Water Company introduced a system whereby the first 10 cubic meters remain at a low price yet usage between 10 and 20 cubic meters is higher. After 30 cubic meters it's double the initial price. Together with a surcharge for wastewater services, the incomes cover the cost of production.

Increasing water supply tariffs remain a sensitive issue as they concern basic living standards of the general public and spark conflicts of interests between providers and consumers.

A case study was carried out by the World Bank studying tariff adjustment in Chongqing, China. Conclusions from the World Bank study proved that an increase from 1.20 yuan/m3 to 2 yuan/m3 not only meant it was the highest in the nation at the time, but it was also accepted by disadvantaged groups.

Bob Bryniak, CEO of Golden Sands Management Consulting, told WWi that a move to "cost reflective" tariffs will send the right pricing signals to end users and reduce the excessive use of drinking water throughout the Middle East.

Bryniak said policy makers could transition such a move over a period of three to five years, to avoid public reaction.

Tariffs will continue to prove a controversial topic as Middle East nations attempt to increase fees and reduce heavily subsidized water. Last year Yemen put out a tender for a water tariff study consultancy, according to Meed. The study will aim to analyze current tariff systems and suggest "better methodologies to address the needs of the poorest part of the population".

Dr Hilal to head Masdar's Water Centre of Excellence

The Masdar Institute has appointed desalination expert Dr Nidal Hilal to help establish a Centre of Excellence for Water Technologies.

Aims are for the centre to become the GCC region's first international-quality provider of localized solutions to water technology needs. It will focus on membrane technologies and promoting wastewater reuse across the UAE.

Dr Hilal, who has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wales in the UK, is internationally recognised as a leader in developing and applying the force measurement capability of atomic force microscope (AFM) to the study of membrane separation and engineering processes at the nano-scale level.

Dr Hilal won the Kuwait Prize of Applied Science in the Arab world in 2005 for his innovative development work in water technology.

He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) from the University of Wales in recognition of his outstanding research contribution in the fields of membrane technology and application of AFM to chemical and process engineering.

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