Articles & Case Studies

Remote performance monitoring of pump station packages using WebSCADA

Posted: Thursday 26th January 2012

Throughout the UK there are thousands of underground wastewater/effluent pump stations which are operated by private companies in industry and commerce, local authorities and residential property developers. These packaged pump stations collect, store and pump liquid waste matter where there is insufficient gravity flow to the main sewer. However, even with the best planning the performance of these single and multiple pump stations can sometimes be compromised by unexpected events and environmental conditions. If malfunctions occur and go undetected for any length of time, the eventual consequences can be costly and disastrous.

While the majority of these packaged pumping systems incorporate both visual and audible alarms, what many do not contain is the capability to remotely monitor the operating performance of the pumps and associated equipment. If operators have this information in real-time, they are able to determine if a problem is likely to occur and then take preventative action to remedy the situation. The benefit of this is that operators can manage their assets more efficiently and economically, whilst the environment in which the pump station is located is afforded greater protection from flooding and pollution. In actual fact, this scenario is not wishful thinking, for with wireless GPRS telemetry, it is a reality.

For many years Nortech Management Limited, with its WebSCADA system has been providing economical and reliable remote monitoring of low asset value applications across the UK’s national electricity supply network. More recently, the Worcestershire-based company has taken this proven telemetry system and applied it to packaged pump stations, and to great effect. Nortech’s WebSCADA Pump Station Remote Monitoring System and Service has been taken up by domestic and commercial property development companies, local authorities, M&E contractors responsible for operating pump stations, pump manufacturers and pump station suppliers.

Site Electrical Limited, one of the UK’s most experienced M&E contractors, providing pump station design and build solutions, together with maintenance and emergency services, is one such company to take up the Nortech system. “Using WebSCADA telemetry control for remote monitoring enables Site Electrical to assertively and economically extend the period between site visits and still identify equipment faults before they cause complete system failure,” says Mick Brindle, Commercial Director for Site Electrical. “The ongoing reliability of our pump installations and their timely and economical maintenance is essential to our reputation.”

The Nortech WebSCADA Pump Station Remote Monitoring System & Service is designed to monitor the running of single and multiple pumps, together with the associated sensors and probes that ensure the correct operation of a pump station. It is far more than a simple remote alarm monitoring system, being a highly featured management tool that provides a constant stream of data about all the functions of the pump station. Events including pump stopped/running, pump healthy/tripped and high level alarm are examples of the digital outputs. Flow rate, well depth, temperature are analogue outputs that provide information for detecting changes in operational conditions.

Armed with this information, operators and contractors responsible for the management of residential, local authority, commercial and industrial pump stations can optimise maintenance services to achieve greater plant efficiency and manage operating costs. Equally as important, the availability of real-time accurate and recorded information enables them to take effective action to prevent system failures and potential environmental contamination. The Nortech system even has its own 24/7health check so that users know that they are always receiving notifications and accurate records for equipment trend analysis.

Fundamentally, the system consists of a Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU), known as the Nortech ‘Nexus Smart Box’, which employs wireless GPRS communications to transfer data from the pump station to Nortech’s iHost WebSCADA platform. This well-established software platform runs on multiple servers located in a dedicated data centre to ensure reliability and security (Fig.1). All communications from iHost are forwarded by SMS text message and email to nominated users, with the format of the messages typically configured to include the site name, the time and the alarm description. All events are date and time stamped, so an accurate history of the site and pump performance can be viewed and stored for ongoing analysis. This information can be used to reduce whole lifetime operating costs. In addition, iHost enables operators to reconfigure an installed Nexus RTU without the need for an engineer to make a site visit. For the operator, this means changing site conditions or monitoring requirements can be addressed quickly and easily.

The ‘Smart Box’ is a relatively compact unity that can easily be connected directly into the pump station control panel (Fig 2) when the pump station is being installed or retrofitted to existing stations. Typically, the installer will discuss with the end-user the performance parameters that are required to be monitored and this information is programmed into iHost and the configured ‘Smart Box’. In addition, the system is quick and economical to adjust for new requirements, ensuring that the remote monitoring continues to work intelligently for the end-users needs. Nortech does provide installer and end-users with an extensive training programme in order to ensure that all parties gain optimum benefit from the technology from the outset.

Site Electrical points out that knowing site conditions remotely, such as a pump station is running for longer or operating in duty assist mode, means that a timely repair visit can be planned to provide the most appropriate and economic energy management and maintenance solution. “What is excellent with remote monitoring is the plant’s status is clearly visible to Site Electrical and the customer,” says Mick Brindle. “Any maintenance visits made are full justifiable, necessary and represent real value for money. When the unexpected does happen duty service engineers are notified of an alarm in real time, so they can react immediately with knowledge of the identified fault. The valuable time saved has the potential for sparing the user any additional costs related to tankering or spillage clean up.”

For the wastewater and effluent treatment industry, the Nortech WebSCADA system has the potential for being the new standard for the forthcoming adoption of small pumping stations.

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