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Research and Development

The Hera Group's research activities in the first half of 2009 chiefly concerned the development of environmental monitoring and control technologies, energy efficiency, optimization of the networks, and the technological development of renewable sources.

Leading research projects were:

  • CO2 project

    CO2 Project. This project was started up in 2005, with the objective of reducing sludge from wastewater treatment and greenhouse gas emissions. It involves experimenting with an innovative technology to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from exhaust gas produced by combustion processes and to use it in the process of anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge. In 2006 and 2007 a series of experimental activities were carried out at an especially built pilot plant. The tests performed evidenced a good capacity in capturing the CO2 and a considerable increase of the specific production of biogas. In 2008, experimental activity continued, aimed at improving the anaerobic process, with the first industrial application project using a full-scale plan to verify its yield. During the first half of 2009, some aspects concerning the use of new process co-adjuvants were studied.

  • Emerging Pollutants Project

    Emerging Pollutants Project. In 2007, Hera launched a research project to identify Emerging Pollutants (mainly drugs and drug metabolites) in water systems, especially natural water intended to be used for drinking. Hera takes an active part in the study group "Interfering Endocrines and Water Intended for Human Consumption" (www.edinwater.com) promoted by the AMGA Foundation of Genoa (www.fondazioneamga.it). Other Italian multiutilities, various university departments and the Italian Institute of Health are members of the study group. At the beginning of 2008, cooperation was initiated also with the Centro Ferrara Ricerche and with the Mario Negri Institute to investigate wastewater.
    During 2009, the Group acquired some analytical methodologies and tested them in Group laboratories, and also performed some analyses on natural drinking water. Other analyses were performed on wastewater samples in collaboration with the Mario Negri Institute.

  • Environmental Catalysis Project

    Environmental Catalysis Project. The project, started in 2007 with the collaboration of the University of Bologna and with the participation of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) [Italian Institute of Health], plans to try using traditional catalytic converters used to abate nitrogen oxide emissions also to abate dioxins. During 2007, several commercial catalytic converters were characterized with outstanding results, above all for those used on the Group's plants. During 2008, a new filter prototype was designed and plans were made for detailed sampling and characterization of emissions by means of analyses by Group laboratories in collaboration with the ISS. During the first half of 2009, the ISS began taking samples at the new WTE plant at Forlì.

  • Automatic Leakage Detection Project

    Automatic Leakage Detection Project. The project has come about as a natural development of the remote reading of drinking water meters. It consists of studying innovative systems for automatically locating water leaks, to be used with the remote reading system. A test site was set up in 2007, and tests under different environmental conditions were carried out. The first experimental results were very interesting.

    In 2008, investigative techniques were refined by 1) developing a device for automatic unsupervised data acquisition in the field, 2) developing a statistical analysis tool on the MatLab® platform and 3) designing a device to simulate water leaks.

    During the first half of 2009, the device for simulating leaks was realized. It should be installed in the network at the beginning of the second half.

  • Energy Efficiency Benchmarking Project

    Energy Efficiency Benchmarking Project. The aim of the project is to supply tools to improve the energy efficiency of integrated water service systems. Through benchmarking and appropriate flow-charting of plant processes, it will be possible to measure and monitor the energy efficiency of each plant. The activity will initially involve the water treatment plants. The project is coordinated by the Water Research Centre of Swindon (UK) and various European multiutilities take part in it. The activity, started in 2007, continued in 2008 with the characterization of energy consumption at the water treatment plant of Cervia (Ravenna province) and with the definition of the metering points to verify the actual efficiency improvement.
    Activity continues in 2009 together with the Water Research Centre workgroup, to fine-tune the energy model for the pilot plant.

  • Automatic Plant Operation Project

    Automatic Plant Operation Project. The project, developed in cooperation with ENEA, involves the development of a system for the automatic management of the main function parameters in the water supply service plants. The system shall maintain the process conditions of a specified plant within its maximum efficiency, based on the composition of the incoming wastewater (treatment plants) or of the incoming raw water (drinking water treatment plants). The objectives are to guarantee the quality of the final product and to reduce energy consumption. Work began in 2008 on the water treatment plant at Calderara di Reno (Bologna province), which will be used as the test site. During the first half of 2009, the analysis and inspection instrumentation was installed at the site.

  • Modelling Project for Plants of the Water Cycle

    Modelling Project for Plants of the Water Cycle. The project expects to develop mathematical models for the purpose of hydraulic and process simulation of wastewater plants. The objective is to acquire the tools and know-how needed coordinate mathematical modelling of the plants of the Integrated Water Cycle. This asset will operate alongside the already consolidated network models to support operating and strengthening the plants and increasing their efficiency. The project is being carried out in collaboration with ENEA. In 2009, preliminary activity to develop a model of the sample site and to select off-the-shelf calculation software began..

  • Energy Laboratory

    Energy Laboratory. In 2008, a feasibility study was completed to develop an experimental centre for applied research into technologies for producing energy from renewable and alternative sources. The final plan was completed in the first half of 2009.

  • Geothermal Reservoirs Project

    Geothermal Reservoirs Project. Following up on the technological progress in the sector of exploiting natural resources that were considered inadequate or not cost-effective in the past, the Group has launched a research project to characterize potential geothermal reservoirs with low and medium enthalpy that might be useful for district heating. The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Consorzio Ferrara Ricerche and with the support of the Seismic and Geological Department of the Emilia Romagna Region.

  • Measurement Strategy Project

    Measurement Strategy Project. Meeting regulatory requirements for remote reading and remote operation of utility meters in the short and medium term in the sector of gas distribution has accelerated the evaluation of systems for Advanced Metering Infrastructures (AMI), particularly those that may provide multiservice synergy. In the first half of 2009, an initial analysis to define system requirements and evaluate off-the-shelf solutions was developed in collaboration with the Consorzio Romagna Innovazione and Polytechnic University of Milan.