Looking at Our Industry's Future

Environmental executives predict trends for the new year

We've asked leaders from different segments of the environmental field to gaze into their crystal balls and forecast significant developments they see occurring in 2006 and beyond. Our executives provide insights about a variety of subjects ranging from the future market drivers in the water business to emerging compliance challenges related to the Clean Air Act.

Innovation: Driving Factor of the Water Business
By Roger Radke, PhD
Innovation continues to be a driving factor in the water treatment business. Population growth, ineffective water management, and regulatory demands all impact the industry's need to provide more efficient technology and systems. Innovative technologies that address the need for alternative water sources, along with better management of the existing water resources, will continue to grow as the world's already dwindling water supply becomes more limited.

Today, highly treated wastewater is valued as an important resource. Many U.S., European, and Middle Eastern facilities are looking at wastewater reuse as a means to supplement limited freshwater supplies. In some cases, reusing wastewater can be less expensive than paying for freshwater from other sources. Wastewater is most often treated and reused for irrigation, groundwater replenishment, cooling tower makeup, and boiler feed water.

One recent advancement gaining popularity as an alternate means of recycling and reusing water is the satellite treatment plant. Sometimes also called "sewer mining," this treatment method uses high-tech membrane bioreactor (MBR) units to tap into wastewater distribution lines close to where reclaimed water is needed. This localized installation eliminates the high costs of piping reclaimed water from a central treatment plant.

Faced with pressure from ratepayers and local government officials to control costs, municipal drinking water and wastewater operators are looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their investment, operations, and maintenance activities. And as a major component of manufacturing, companies consider good water-treatment management a part of their competitive advantage. Technologies that upgrade old systems and reduce costs -- providing better water management -- will continue to drive both municipal and industrial industries.

Roger Radke, PhD, is CEO of USFilter Corp. and Head of Siemens Water Technologies. He has played integral roles within Siemens since 1989. Most recently, he served as president of Siemens Audiologische Technik GmbH, which is headquartered in Erlangen, Germany and is the world leader in manufacturing and sales of hearing aid instruments. Radke attended the University of Munster in Munster, Germany, where he received an MS in Chemistry in 1987 and a PhD in 1990. Contact Jim Force at james.force@siemens.com.

The Clean Air Act: Compliance or Shutdown?
By Mike Wood
The federal Clean Air Act became law in 1990, impacting the entire country. At the same time, states began developing their own state implementation plans (SIP), which were often more stringent than federal law.

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to regulate emissions of 188 specific air toxics. On July 16, 1992, EPA published a list of industry groups, known as source categories, that emit one or more of these air toxics. For listed categories of "major" sources (those that have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a single listed air toxic, or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of air toxics), the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to develop standards that restrict emissions to levels consistent with the lowest-emitting (or "best-performing") facilities. These standards are based on stringent air pollution reduction measures known as maximum achievable control technology (MACT).

Electric and heat boilers, which burn fossil fuel (coal, gas, and oil) and/or other biomass substances, such as wood and agricultural residues to produce steam, are impacted by recent EPA regulations which require implementation of emissions control systems. Facilities that demonstrate eligibility based on acid gas emissions may need to install scrubbers to control certain air toxics emissions.

While some communities are ahead of schedule in the effort to reduce ground-level ozone, or smog, EPA is proposing a federal implementation plan (FIP) requiring power plants to participate in one or more of three separate "cap-and-trade" programs under the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). The proposed FIP would require plants in the 28 CAIR states and the District of Columbia to reduce annual sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, annual nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and ozone-season NOx emissions.

CAIR will permanently cap emissions of SO2 and NOx in the eastern United States, and when fully implemented, will reduce SO2 emissions in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia by more than 70 percent, and NOx emissions by more than 60 percent from 2003 levels.1

On June 20, 2005, EPA proposed to amend the General Provisions to the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) and other specific National Emissions Standards. Among other things, the General Provisions require an affected facility to develop a startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) plan, which would describe how a source will operate to minimize emissions during these periods.2

By 2006, many of these policies, and more, will be reviewed and implemented with deadlines for compliance ranging from 2006 to 2015. The next few years will see mandatory policy, both federal and state, compelling plants to implement industrial air pollution reduction or elimination systems, or risk fines or even shutdown if implementation is not in effect.

It is therefore crucial to take a long, hard look at the systems that can help in compliance, and to ask some pertinent questions as to effectiveness. Is the system simple to construct and operate? Is it cost-effective? Successful? Reliable?

Industrial pollution-control systems can include low-NOx burners, which prevent pollution from occurring, or systems such as SCR, n-SCR, DSI (dry-sorbent injection), liquid injection systems, and wet scrubbers, which treat offending chemicals. Front-end controls, such as low-NOx burner systems address some air pollution problems, but they are not wholly effective.

Many utilities have found that using SCR systems to remove NOx causes SO3 levels to become unacceptable. However, application of certain sodium based chemicals injected into the gas stream either in solution or as a dry sorbent will selectively remove SO3 from stacks.

Scrubbing systems such as DSI or wet scrubbers can remove HCl and SO2 at the end of the process, each system having its own advantages and design constraints. DSI systems generally have lower equipment and operating costs compared to liquid scrubbing systems, and routinely achieve very high levels of pollutant removal. By adjusting the pH of the solution, wet scrubbers can be fine tuned to desired levels, effectively reducing the impact of acid rain on the environment.

Whatever the decision as to choice of systems, the Clean Air Act cannot be taken lightly or dismissed. The future is now; compliance is essential.

1. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Press Release, Yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf
2. Environmental Protection Agency, TTN OAR Policy and Guidance, www.epa.gov.

Mike Wood is a chemical engineer and the business manager responsible for Solvay Chemicals' sodium sulfite and trona products. He received his degree from Northeastern University in Boston, and he is the co-inventor of a process that controls SO2 control in gold refining operations. He can be contacted at (713) 525-6829, or by e-mail at Mike.Wood@Solvay.com.

Software as a Service" Creates the Customer Era
By Lawrence E. Goldenhersh, JD
The "Software as a Service" Revolution has, for the first time, exploded the software vendor's vice grip -- putting customers in the driver's seat. Prior to the creation of Internet-based "software as a service" technology, customers had no choice but to purchase software that 1) may not directly fit their needs, either in terms of functionality or power, 2) took months, if not years, to implement, 3) couldn't easily integrate with legacy systems, and 4) became obsolete and unsupported unless upgrades were purchased. Once the vendor handed the customer the software disks (and perhaps provided implementation support) the customer was on its own.

Software as a service (also known as "on-demand") technology finally puts the choice, the flexibility, and the power where it belongs -- in the hands of customers -- ushering in the Customer Era. In this "on-demand" world, buyers purchase precisely the amount of computing required, directly matching business issues with technology solutions. And, because software as a service requires no hardware purchase or software disks to load, the cash investment is lower and the customer gets direct access to the software in a matter of hours, not weeks or months.

In this Customer Era, more users and additional functionality can be added, when needed, with a few simple clicks of a mouse. In addition, because software as a service is instantly available over the Internet, providers can allow the customer to validate fit more quickly than ever through initial deployments, where real compliance requirements are managed by the customer in the actual system. Connecting with legacy systems, traditionally a difficult task in the client-server world has also been dramatically simplified in the "software as a service" world, where Web tools have significantly reduced the time historically required for integration. This ease of integration enables the company to leverage previous technology investments by "reusing" the data in those older systems.

At least as important as any of the other advantages described is the fact that "software as a service" has fundamentally improved the ability of customers to enforce software vendors' promises. In the "software as a service" world, the customer purchases and seamlessly accesses usage incrementally. If the application does not perform as promised, the customer can cancel the subscription and move on, having avoided the handcuffs of making a big enterprise purchase up front. This fundamental shift creates substantial protection and makes customer satisfaction job one. To avoid cancellation, "software as a service" providers have to satisfy customers every single day -- from the time the system is purchased throughout implementation, adoption, and ongoing use.

Shifting to the on-demand Customer Era is so compelling and inexorable that Microsoft Corp. recently announced the restructuring of its business to address the "sea change" in the software world caused by the market's acceptance of the "software as a service" model. In an advisory from Credit Suisse/First Boston, a leading software analyst firm, it was noted that the "key takeaway (from Microsoft's roll-out of its software as a service plan) was that Microsoft is completely focused on the concept of On-Demand computing." And Microsoft is following a widely publicized trend: According to a survey conducted by IDC, another leading information technology analyst firm, 70 percent of the customers and 75 percent of the software companies surveyed believed that, by 2010, more than 50 percent of all software purchases would be purchased on demand.

"Software as a service" has revolutionized software delivery because the model drives tremendous cost savings that can be shared between software companies and their customers. This cost savings arise from the fact that "software as a service" providers service all customers from one, centrally located application, rather than with multiple versions of the program loaded and operated on thousands of computers around the world (client-server software). This dramatically reduced cost structure allows "software as a service" companies to provide customers, for the first time, with the ability to purchase computing power incrementally, as needed.

Within a company, the cost saving advantage of "software as a service" over traditional client-server products is dramatic. With client-server software, internal company costs to maintain each product are "?up to four times the cost of their software license PER YEAR to own and manage..." as quoted by Gartner, Inc., a global analyst firm. These costs far exceed the subscription fees that customers pay for scaled, on-demand applications.

Software as a service has moved software from a mystical dark art to a simple exercise of ordering a service you know you need. With the complication gone, winners and losers will be decided at the altar of customer satisfaction, and customer service will, as it has in other industries, become job one -- the Era of the Customer has finally arrived.

Lawrence E. Goldenhersh, JD, is founder, president, and CEO of Enviance Inc., Carlsbad, Calif. He can be reached via e-mail at lgoldenhersh@enviance.com.

Trends in Equipment Procurement Methods
By Chuck Miller
Progressive owners and consultants strive to procure environmental equipment that ensures the best value. However, some antiquated procurement methods provide an impediment to that goal. Most problems originated with requirements in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Construction Grants Program of the 1970s and 1980s. The program's emphasis was "lowest initial price," and not "best value." To maximize competition, the "Or Equal" clause was used -- the results proved costly. According to the Government Accountability Office, one of the most significant factors in the failure of federally funded wastewater treatment facilities was inferior process equipment that was either poor in quality or misapplied.

Realizing these consequences, the trend is moving away from the "Or Equal" mentality. Value conscious owners and their engineers spend months designing projects and can base decisions on professional analysis and experience, not just lowest initial equipment price. Current procurement trends include the following emerging methods:

  • Pre-Purchase -- Prior to the construction bid, equipment is pre-purchased by negotiating directly with the equipment suppliers.
  • Sole-source Specification -- This arrangement is justified when the owner has several pieces of the same equipment and wishes to optimize operation, maintenance, and safety programs, as well as reducing stocking levels for spare parts because of the interchangeability of those parts.
  • Base Bid -- The contractor uses the specified equipment when preparing their bid. Contract is awarded based on this equipment. This allows contractors to operate on an even playing field and not take excessive risks to be the low bidder. Alternates can be evaluated after the award.

Value-based procurement that sanctions owner and engineer control results in superior design, equipment, and service quality with lower operations and maintenance costs, and longer service life. It compels consultants and equipment manufacturers to increase research and development and process innovation. Innovation results in healthier competition, which, in concert with better-designed facilities, creates long-term value for end users.

Chuck Miller is chairman of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association and vice president of the municipal division at Smith & Loveless Inc. He can contacted by e-mail at cmiller@smithandloveless.com.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Authors

Angela Neville, JD, REM, is the former editorial director of Environmental Protection.

Jason Goodman is managing editor of Water and Wastewater Products magazine.

Featured Webinar