Blockages of submersible pumps caused by grease and solids are a major problem in pumping wastewater. In the worst-case scenario, this can result in flooded wells, unwanted spillages and eventually, premature motor failures.  Unscheduled work to manually clear the blockages is then required, which entails pump lifting, involving considerable time and expense, not to mention the health and safety aspects.

Leading utility company Anglian Water has extensively trialled the Simocode motor management system from Siemens, at over 200 of its sites. Early results have shown an impressive 70 per cent reduction in blockages, and in many instances engineers no longer have to visit troublesome sites. Anglian Water, working in association with the Water Innovation Network, have so far been delighted with the benefits this innovative solution offers.    

Reversing the pump

Initially, Anglian Water ran a trial at a site in Corby, which had been experiencing regular pump blockage issues. Upon first use with Simocode the operator was able to identify that the pump was running at a higher than anticipated current, and instigated a reversal operation. The current then reduced significantly, suggesting evidence of freeing a previous blockage. The system was configured to look for set points indicating higher than normal currents, whereby Simocode would automatically instigate a pump reversal. 

In the six months since this first trial started, Anglian Water has experienced a considerable reduction in blockages, along with lower running costs.  The company is now confident that pump blockages can be significantly reduced, as Anglian Water asset optimisation engineer Lorenzo Pompa confirmed: “Previously we spent up to £15 million a year sorting out around 34,000 blockages at a cost of around £500 per blockage.  Blockages have a negative impact on the environment and our customers, and tie up our technicians, who we’d rather were working on enhancing processes at our water recycling centres and pumping stations. So, any steps we can take to avoid blockages provide an all-round benefit for us.”

Anglian Water tries to educate its customer base on what not to flush into the system, by running a local community initiative called ‘Keep It Clear‘.  Although there is sometimes the unexpected to contend with, this automated solution – monitoring for higher currents and then reversing pumps and restarting them – has proved a considerable time and cost saving system for the company.  Benefits have also included a dramatic reduction in downtime, great TOTEX benefits, a scalable solution with simple deployment and the flexibility of either a networked or standalone configuration. The automated system complements the human monitoring already carried out by Anglian Water.

Siemens, with extensive process knowledge of the water and wastewater industry, was able to customise the Simocode system to specifically meet the customer‘s exact needs. Simocode is simple to deploy, which means no new software tools have to be learned and no extra time is wasted in learning new software skills.  In addition to managing the process, if required Simocode will provide all the data associated with the pump over a secure internet connection so decisions can be taken remotely. 

Dave Holcroft is a business development manager at Siemens and he worked with Anglian Water to install the Simocode system. He acknowledged that the build-up of particles on the impellors of pumps does happen, but by reversing the process and then returning it to forward mode, many particle blockages can be freed.  “We’ve now extensively deployed this system and we’re delighted with the fantastic results, as is our client Anglian Water. We would encourage others to review this case study and explore the potential benefits it can bring to their business.”

Anglian Water plans to introduce Simocode to other sites in due course.

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