Understanding network energy

Johannes Andersen and Esther Goya, Thames Water’s representatives on the Smart Water 4 Europe project, examine how energy modelling and visualisation are bringing benefits right across the company’s pipe system

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How energy-efficient is our network in delivering water? Are there areas with hydraulic restrictions? Are there any ‘hotspots’ that consume a significant proportion of the energy? These are just some of the questions that the Smart Water 4 Europe project tries to answer by developing an Energy Visualisation Tool. The first thing to consider is how closely linked water and energy are. We cannot deliver water without energy! Indeed, a huge amount of energy is needed to pump, treat and distribute water, and a proportion of this is burnt in pipes, lost in leaks or wasted in PRVs. Regulatory bodies and shareholders are always looking for a balance between cost, risk and performance, placing further pressures on the network. Bearing in mind that energy is one the highest costs for a water company, this becomes a strategic focus point. While it is true that networks are already highly optimised and trying to push this further could lead to loss of resilience and flexibility, having a better understanding of energy consumption could allow us to identify not only risks but also opportunities. As part of Smart Water 4 Europe project, an Energy Visualisation Tool has been developed to show how energy is distributed within the network. The tool displays pressures, flows and energy in an intuitive way using a wide variety of visualisations. In particular, the use of maps enables the identification of specific areas which might be of interest as well as specific points and their location.
The visualisation tool shows how the energy fed into the system is consumed during delivery. The water is delivered from the pumps to the different customer and the energy ‘consumed’ on its journey is a combination of several factors:

  •  elevation –the height of the customer above the pump
  •  the pressure that Thames Water aims to provide to its customers
  •  the excess pressure that some customers get, and finally
  •  the transmission losses

To estimate each of these, a hydraulic model has been developed together with a new algorithm which provides the opportunity to calculate energy not only in the pipes but also at the demand points. This is done by using network tracing which provides very accurate calculations of the precise flow going through the network to individual demand points. This is a very innovative approach to assign energy and flow paths to individual demand points. The visualisation has been developed using Qlik Sense, a tool that has been recently adopted by Thames Water and which offers a wide range of visualisation techniques. The final product is an energy visualisation tool that shows where the energy goes and how it is distributed by component, area or time of the day. It’s an instrument which gives the user the opportunity to know a bit more about the network, identify some over- pressure areas or low-pressure points as well as reveal some energy ‘hotspots’.

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