Digitalisation and technological innovation provide the foundation for a national UK Bioresources Model

The OFWAT Innovation Catalyst Stream of the Water Breakthrough Challenge stimulates innovation within the water sector. With the increase in complex challenges such as climate change and population growth, greater certainty is needed around the long-term approach for managing sludge and bioresources to support the delivery of national policies and deliver improved environmental outcomes. More creative and innovative solutions are required.

Exploring innovative opportunities in the Bioresources Market through BMA’s Digital Business Twin

Wastewater companies have increasingly focused on harnessing the potential of bioresources as a valuable recyclable resource, rich in energy and nutrients, derived from their treatment processes.  The presence of a market in bioresources has been a topic of discussion for many years, and its importance has grown with the increasing recognition of environmental sustainability and the need to transition to a more bio-based economy.

There are several reasons why developing a bioresources market has become an important issue in recent times, including an increasing demand for bioresources as a renewable alternative due to a growing global population and environmental concerns where bioresources offer opportunities to reduce greenhouse emissions and promote circular economies.

The evolution of a bioresources market presents a range of opportunities and challenges for wastewater utilities, including overcoming the impact of population growth with its inevitable pressures to meet increased treatment capacity.  The task ahead is enormous and requires a more connected, systemic and adaptive decision-making.

Unlocking bioresources market growth

The OFWAT Innovation Catalyst Stream of the Water Breakthrough Challenge stimulates innovation within the water sector. The initiative investigates the potential for collaboration between English wastewater companies to reduce sewage sludge end-to-end treatment cost, increase the resilience of the operations, meet common environmental goals and simulate the impact of regulatory changes.

As part of the OFWAT Water Breakthrough Challenge, BMA partnered with Anglian Water together with four other major utility companies, serving 35 million customers in the UK, to find a way to quickly identify opportunities in the bioresources market and to tackle challenges, such as meeting increased capacity requirements. We explored ways we could work in partnerships and fully understand the market opportunities through integrating asset systems and collaborating with neighbouring water companies on potential joint investments. 

“ The project provides important insights into bioresources market opportunities. By creating a system twin across networks this has provided an evidence based platform for dialogue and exchange of ideas with other water companies outside of the project, with Ofwat and our environmental regulators. We will be using the outputs to inform and shape our approach to use of markets for strategic long term planning in Anglian Water”

Steve Riches

Portfolio Lead Bioresources - Asset Delivery Planning, Anglian Water Services

With a combined customer base of 35 million, the five water companies generate approximately 900,000 dry tonnes of raw sludge annually. Using advanced digital simulations, we were able to analyse different scenarios. These simulations demonstrated the potential benefits of collaboration, including cross-border movement and shared investments, to achieve shared goals.

The initiative encompasses over 2,500 wastewater treatment centres, 100 sludge treatment centres, and more than 500,000 decision variables. By calculating an optimal set of options, we aim to identify areas for collaboration, potential cost savings, and adaptive pathways to generate additional value and overcome future challenges.

Digital Business Twin

By removing traditional company constraints and geographic barriers, we were able to harness the real power of systemic planning. Our Digital Business Twin enables a wastewater utility to employ a whole system methodology and adaptive planning functionality to unlock insights and drive significant business benefits in the Bioresources sector.

Asset systems were seamlessly integrated in a single digital representation, thereby creating an opportunity to harness the power of systemic planning. Across the five water companies, the approach identified shared investment and carbon strategies which could not have been achieved through independent planning across the individual companies (read more about our Digital Business Twin technology).

Take a Tour of our Technology Platform

For detailed information about the background to this initiative, the market for Bioresources,  and the methodology behind the data, we are making our technology platform accessible for the first time through the below dashboard.

Data was entered into our technology platform, Decisio™, and scenarios were created calculating an optimal solution for each set of inputs. Through these scenarios we identified key areas for collaboration, potential cost savings, and adaptive pathways to generate additional value and overcome future challenges.

Click on the below button to start the Tour and interact with the data to see adaptive planning in action. Please note that all data used is publicly available.


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