Insta Automation: Digital twin for better water supply management - Business Tampere Magazine

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Together with the Tampere Region water services, Insta Automation has developed virtual modeling to help manage water supply systems. Modeling and digital twins are increasingly important for the usability and safety in these systems.

Insta engineers
Photo: Insta Group

Insta Automation is a leader in water supply automation, thus it was an obvious choice to try and find a suitable R&D project for digital twin in the field of water supply. Being a strong local operator in the Tampere Region, Insta soon focused on the future Sulkavuori Central Wastewater Treatment Plant. That is: wastewater management, transfer and pumping to the plant.

– Data on wastewater flows has been collected for 15 years. Based on that we took under examination the wastewaters that are flowing into the interceptor sewer of the treatment plant, says Jyri Stenberg, VP of Engineering and Turn-Key Deliveries at Insta Automation.

The data accumulated along the years shows how wastewater flows from Tampere districts and neighbouring municipalities to treatment systems. When local water supply authorities gave the green light to using the data, Insta was able to start working on the InstaTWIN tool and virtual modeling. 

Predictability and exceptional circumstances

Water supply in Finland is an industrial-scale operation and safety-critical in a number of ways. The everyday life would be quite severely disturbed, should drinkable water stop flowing from taps or if sewage wouldn’t be conveyed to treatment units.

Virtual modeling makes it possible to test important systems for a variety of normal conditions and for exceptional circumstances. The water level in the interceptor sewer of a treatment plant should be manageable at all times for optimal water balance. In the Insta project, water level management was tested  in a simulation.

– We tried for example the effect of adjusting pump efficiency and pumping cycles. To test the effect of exceptional water flows we simulated heavy rains and floods, says Stenberg.

In the case of an unusually heavy rainfall, some of the surface runoff water will flow into the sanitary sewer system. With the digital twin it is possible to predict, how and when the rainfall will affect the volume of incoming wastewater. Different scenarios, based on real data, can be simulated safely.

Predictability is also useful when planning system maintenance and in managing normal variations in the wastewater flow. The amount of the flow varies with time and date. These changes are well known based on the long-term data.

– Adjusting pumping cycles saves energy and helps optimise the use of chemicals needed in wastewater treatment, says Stenberg.

The Insta project and its virtual modeling also proved in advance that planned pump sizing will be suitable for the future treatment plant’s needs.

Showing results of digitalisation 

There’s been a lot of talk about the innovations that digitalisation will make possible. One example on how words become reality is the virtual modeling that improves water supply safety and cost-efficiency.

– The wastewater management project in the Tampere Region was an important one for us. The technology we developed can be used in many different environments. Not just in water supply systems but in any process that has to do with pumping liquids, says Stenberg.

New technologies allow quicker modeling, but it is never easy to manage large systems. The Tampere project also demonstrated that sometimes it makes sense to model only a part of a complicated process. – In this case, the effect of incoming wastewaters on the interceptor sewer of the treatment plant.

VP Jyri Stenberg – photo: Mirella Mellonmaa.

Insta Automation is a solution supplier and life-cycle partner for electrical automation. It is a part of Insta Group Oy, an expert in industrial automation, industrial digitalisation, cyber security and defence technologies. Secure digitalisation is inherent in all Insta Group operations, and the Insta Group site in Tampere is a growing centre of security expertise.

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