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Monthly Archives:July 2017

ADI-BVF® reactor helps Ohio cheesemaker reduce sludge, energy and operational requirements

Location: Middlefield OH, USA • Sector: Food & Beverage

The Client:

Since 1956, Rothenbühler Cheesemakers has been producing delicious cheese using all natural ingredients and 100 percent Grade A milk. Formerly known as Middlefield Cheese, the family-owned company is one of the largest Swiss cheese manufacturers in the United States. Its plant in Middlefield, Ohio, USA, produces five Swiss cheese varieties, as well as high-quality whey ingredient products.

The Client’s Needs:

Rothenbühler Cheesemakers prides itself on adhering to strict environmental practices, blending the cheese making artistry of the past with modern day innovation. The company’s USDA-approved, SQF (Safe Quality Foods) certified facility was already using ecofriendly “green” initiatives to recycle on-site resources. The company wanted an on-site solution to anaerobically pre-treat raw wastewater, thereby remaining environmentally-responsible and reducing its carbon footprint.

The Solution:

ADI Systems was selected to design, install, and commission an anaerobic wastewater treatment system for Rothenbühler Cheesemakers’ plant in Middlefield. The system consists of a 230,000 gallon equalization (EQ) tank, which pumps wastewater into an in-ground 6.8 MG ADI-BVF® reactor. Anaerobic effluent is discharged by gravity to the existing downstream membrane bioreactor (MBR) system for aerobic polishing. The project also included construction of a control/electrical equipment building.

The large volume of the BVF® reactor provides a robust and diverse anaerobic microorganism community, making the system resilient to variations in influent characteristics such as organic load, influent solids concentrations, pH, temperature, and alkalinity. As wastewater passes upward through the sludge blanket, microorganisms digest the majority of the organic load, reducing chemical oxygen demand (COD), total suspended solids (TSS), and fats, oils, grease (FOG). The low-rate system is designed to treat 600,000 gpd of wastewater. The anaerobic digestion process continuously produces biogas, which is collected beneath the reactor cover and delivered to a standard biogas flare and/or utilization system.

The Results:

The wastewater treatment system that ADI Systems engineered for Rothenbühler Cheesemakers has simplified and improved process efficiency. The BVF® reactor can directly digest raw wastewater (no DAF or other FOG or TSS removal is required), and requires very little electrical horsepower, helping lower operational costs. Aeration energy and chemical requirements for the existing aerobic system have also been reduced.

We are thrilled to be able to process our wastewater responsibly. The BVF® reactor supports our vision of a well-ordered, efficient, and technically advanced system,” says Gary Schoenwald, CAO, Rothenbühler Cheesemakers. “The wastewater treatment system reduces our electrical consumption, provides biogas to supplement our existing plant heating, reduces bio-solids production, and ultimately reduces our carbon footprint.

The BVF® reactor at Rothenbühler Cheesemakers is designed to remove approximately 90 percent of the influent COD. The reactor’s long solids retention time (SRT) and hydraulic retention time (HRT) ensure complete biodegradation of the raw organic compounds, thus higher biogas production can be achieved. At design conditions, approximately 320,000 ft3 (9,000 m3) of biogas is captured per day. This biogas is utilized at a new dual-fuel boiler in the production plant, further minimizing costs for the cheesemaker.

This project was a success due to the attention to detail that we experienced from ADI Systems’ staff—everything from the concept drawings through to installation and startup,” says Schoenwald. “We have seen significant savings in our electrical consumption and expect exceptional savings as well from the use of the biogas.

Aramco CEO sees oil supply shortage as investments, discoveries drop

The world might be heading for an oil supply shortage following a steep drop in investments and a lack of fresh conventional discoveries, Saudi Aramco’s chief executive said on Monday.

Unconventional shale oil and alternative energy resources are an important factor to help meet future demand but it is premature to assume that they can be developed quickly to replace oil and gas, Amin Nasser told a conference in Istanbul.

If we look at the long-term situation of oil supplies, for example, the picture is becoming increasingly worrying. Financial investors are shying away from making much needed large investments in oil exploration, long-term development and the related infrastructure.  Investments in smaller increments such as shale oil will just not cut it,” Nasser said.

About $1 trillion in investments have already been lost since a decline in oil prices from 2014. Studies show that 20 million barrels per day of new production will be needed to meet demand growth and offset natural decline of developed fields over the next five years, he said.

New discoveries are also on a major downward trend. The volume of conventional oil discovered around the world over the past four years has more than halved compared with the previous four,” Nasser said.


A lack of investment is definitely not helping, so if that continues over the next couple of years there will be an inflection point where what we see today will have an impact on consumers at the end and supply will be impacted for the next couple of years, Nasser told CNBC.

What we need to see is more investments from various sectors to make sure there is an adequate supply over the long term, he said to CNBC.

State oil giant Aramco, which is preparing to sell around 5 percent in itself next year in an initial public offering, is continuing to invest in maintaining its oil production capacity of 12 million barrels per day.

We plan to invest more than $300 billion over the coming decade to reinforce our pre-eminent position in oil, maintain our spare oil production capacity, and pursue a large exploration and production program centering on conventional and unconventional gas resources, Nasser said.

Nasser reiterated the IPO was on track for the second half of 2018.

Asked by CNBC if the current oil price will possibly delay the IPO, Nasser said the company’s investments are “geared towards the long term.”

Even though we have the highest 260 billion of reserves we have the biggest exploration program, he told CNBC.

Nasser said in his speech that one of Aramco’s priorities was “direct conversion of crude oil into petrochemicals” while adding the company was also focusing on solar and wind projects.

(Writing by Rania El Gamal, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Reem Shamseddine; editing by Jason Neely and David Evans)

Balfour Beatty, Atkins, Mott MacDonald and WSP Strategic Partnership

Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, today announces the formation of a collaborative UK Strategic Design Consultant Partnership with Atkins, Mott MacDonald and WSP.

This mutually beneficial partnership will foster a new level of openness, collaboration and innovation never before seen within the construction industry.

The Partnership will focus Balfour Beatty’s procurement of design consultants for its projects towards Atkins, Mott MacDonald and WSP with standard terms and conditions. A community of practice will bring designers and engineers from the four companies together to find solutions in key areas such as health and safety through design, value engineering and the use of more cost-effective design resources.

Customers will benefit from earlier engagement with a co-ordinated collaborative team and improved, consistent working practices which will ultimately reduce construction and programme costs.

The Partnership will be led by Balfour Beatty’s newly-appointed Strategic Design Consultant Partnership Director, Robin Bashford. Robin will be responsible for implementing the Partnership working with the three design consultants to deliver increased value to customers. Prior to his appointment, Robin held a senior work winning role within Balfour Beatty’s Major Projects business and has been with the company since 2013.

Stephen Tarr, Managing Director for Balfour Beatty’s Major Projects business and Executive Committee Sponsor for the Partnership, said:

This newly formed Strategic Design Consultant Partnership represents collaboration in its purest form. Providing a new and refreshed way of working between contractor and designer, I am delighted to announce that we are joining together with Atkins, Mott MacDonald and WSP to deliver the very best of the industry’s ability and capability to provide a complete, refined and Expert offering to our customers.

This Partnership will draw on decades of industry experience and combine it with the modern-day technological expertise of our engineers and designers to deliver a truly Lean, Expert, Trusted and Safe way of working together as an industry.

Mike McNicholas, Managing Director of Atkins’ Infrastructure division, said:

Infrastructure investment continues to be a high priority for the UK, but clients couldn’t be clearer in their message to industry that we need to deliver it differently to provide better value and outcomes for them, their end users and those funding the projects. A greater use of technology is widely acknowledged as one way of doing this, but equally as important will be industry leading companies coming together to innovate and collaborate more effectively. This Partnership is an exciting step forward in achieving these goals.

Stephen Lawrence, Mott MacDonald’s Design Partnership Director said:

Our collaboration with Balfour Beatty goes back nearly 35 years and we’re looking forward to building an even stronger working relationship. We’ve worked together to successfully deliver some of the UK’s most well-known infrastructure such as Heathrow T2B, A3 Hindhead and London Underground’s Jubilee Line Extension, and our joint venture Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald continues to provide service excellence in the highways maintenance industry.

This strategic partnership will provide access to our global network of experts to offer new ideas, drive value and efficiency into the design process and fully support their ‘Build to Last’ transformation programme, Stephen added.

Alistair Kennedy, WSP’s Executive Director responsible for the new partnership said:

We are delighted to have been selected by Balfour Beatty as a strategic partner. Our two companies already work closely together across a wide spectrum of projects and WSP is excited to have the opportunity to be part of this innovative and collaborative approach. We look forward to working together to challenge the status quo for design build contracting in the UK.

Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty (www.balfourbeatty.com) is a leading international infrastructure group. With 30,000 employees, we provide innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins our daily lives, supports communities and enables economic growth. We finance, develop, build and maintain complex infrastructure such as transportation, power and utility systems, social and commercial buildings.
Our main geographies are the UK, US and Far East. Over the last 100 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world including the London Olympics’ Aquatic Centre, Hong Kong’s first Zero Carbon building, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the US and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Atkins (www.atkinsglobal.com) is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing some 18,300 people across the UK, North America, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Europe. We build long term trusted partnerships to create a world where lives are enriched through the implementation of our ideas. You can view Atkins’ recent projects on our website.

Mott MacDonald

Opening opportunities with connected thinking. Mott MacDonald is a US$2bn engineering, management and development consultancy. We’re involved in:

solving some of the world’s most urgent social, environmental and economic challenges
helping governments and businesses plan, deliver and sustain their strategic goals
responding to humanitarian and natural emergencies
improving people’s lives
Our expertise by sector includes buildings, communications, defence, education, environment, health, industry, mining, oil and gas, power, transport, urban development, water, wastewater and more. Our skills encompass planning, studies and design, project finance, technical advisory services, project and programme management, management consultancy and beyond. For every project, we create the blend of talent needed to create the right result – appropriate; cost, carbon and resource-efficient; safe, easy and swift to deliver and operate; reliable and resilient; delivering great outcomes.

Engineering. Management. Consultancy. mottmac.com


WSP is one of the world’s leading engineering professional services consulting firms. We are dedicated to our local communities and propelled by international brainpower. We are technical experts and strategic advisors including engineers, technicians, scientists, architects, planners, surveyors and environmental specialists, as well as other design, program and construction management professionals. We design lasting solutions in the Property & Buildings, Transportation & Infrastructure, Environment, Industry, Resources (including Mining and Oil & Gas) and Power & Energy sectors as well as project delivery and strategic consulting services.

With 7,000 talented people in the UK (including Mouchel Consulting) and 36,000 globally, we engineer projects that will help societies grow for lifetimes to come. WSP has been involved in many high profile UK projects including the Shard, Crossrail, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Manchester Metrolink, M1 Smart Motorway, the re-development of London Bridge Station, and the London Olympic & Paralympic Route Network. www.wsp.com/uk

First coal-free day since the industrial revolution

The UK is set to have its first ever working day without coal power generation since the industrial revolution on Friday, according to the National Grid. The control room tweeted the predicted milestone, adding that it is also set to be the first 24-hour coal-free period in Britain.

The UK has had shorter coal-free periods in 2016, as gas and renewables such as wind and solar play an increasing role in providing the country with power. The longest continuous period until now was 19 hours – first achieved on a weekend last May, and matched on Thursday.

A National Grid spokesman said the record low is a sign of things to come, with coal-free days becoming increasingly common as the polluting fuel is phased out.

Coal has seen significant declines in recent years, accounting for just 9% of electricity generation in 2016, down from around 23% the year before, as coal plants closed or switched to burning biomass such as wood pellets.

Britain’s last power station will be forced to close in 2025, as part of a government plan to phase out the fossil fuel to meet its climate change commitments.

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said:

The first day without coal in Britain since the industrial revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition. A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.

The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy. It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology.

This article first appeared on the Guardian

What makes bonds “green”?

THE market in “green” bonds, which tie the capital raised in bond issues to environmentally friendly investments, is growing. A decade ago total issuance from municipalities and multilateral development banks was worth just a few hundred million dollars annually. In 2016 issuance reached $97bn according to SEB, a Swedish bank. This year, it says, that number could hit $125bn. Green-bonds issuers now range from banks and companies to sovereign states. On the demand side, various sorts of investors, like asset managers and insurers, are buying such bonds. Some are setting up dedicated funds to invest in them. What makes a bond green?

The incomplete answer is that green bonds are green because the proceeds are used to fund green projects such as clean energy (financing construction of a wind park, for example) or transport (financing a new tram line that will take cars off the road). But definitions of what counts as “green” vary. In the market’s early days, the judgement was left to the issuers themselves. So the World Bank’s environment department ruled on projects financed by the green bonds it issued. Even some of the first private issues, like one from Toyota in 2014, were self-declared as green.

As the market grew, self-reporting was no longer tenable. Now, bonds are accepted as green if, within certain broad rules, an external reviewer has signed off on the bond issue in question. Over 140 of the world’s largest banks and asset managers have signed up to the Green Bond Principles, broad guidelines that provide a common definition of greenness, stipulate reporting on the use of funds raised and recommend external review. The Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo (CICERO), a Norwegian climate research institute, is one of the largest providers of external review on green bonds; certification by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), an NGO, is another option. Second opinions from private firms, such as environmental consultancies or large auditors, have also grown more popular. The criteria are often very narrow: for example, some geothermal plants can release as much carbon dioxide as coal-fired ones, from CO2 dissolved in the water itself or freed from the rock in the drilling process; the CBI therefore only certifies geothermal plants that mitigate this problem.

The current set-up still has flaws. One is that standards are proliferating: China’s central bank, for instance, has drawn up its own standards for the Chinese market that differ from international ones, and India is working on its own rules. The Principles are vague, and external review methodologies vary greatly. But perhaps most significantly, the external review process is blind to nuance, providing binary yes/no judgements. That is starting to change. Credit-rating agencies such as S&P Global and Moody’s have recently launched green-evaluation services that grade bonds on a scale of greenness, like their conventional credit ratings. Such a system, if it wins market share, should help environmentally friendly investors better decide how to allocate their money.

Print me a brewery

A better way to make drinks and drugs

SINCE the dawn of civilization, people have used yeast to leaven bread, ferment wine and brew beer. In the modern era, such fermentation has extended its range. Carefully selected moulds churn out antibiotics. Specially engineered bacteria, living in high-tech bioreactors, pump out proteinaceous drugs such as insulin. Some brave souls even talk of taking on the petroleum industry by designing yeast or algae that will synthesize alternatives to aviation fuel and the like.

But fermentation remains a messy process, and one prone to spoilage and waste. Whatever the product, the reaction must generally be shut down after a matter of days to clean out the detritus of biological activity—both cells that have died and the surplus of living ones which growth and reproduction inevitably yield. Alshakim Nelson, a chemist at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and his team, propose to change all that. They have developed a bioreactor that not only keeps bugs alive and active for months at a time, but can also be made in minutes, using low-cost chemicals and a 3D printer.

Dr Nelson’s bioreactors are composed of a substance called a hydrogel, which is about 70% water. The remaining 30% is a special polymer, infused with yeast. Unlike edible jelly, which, as parents of small children will know, breaks into tiny lumps when squeezed, Dr Nelson’s hydrogel has a consistency resembling peanut butter. That permits it to be extruded smoothly through the nozzle of a 3D printer.

Dr Nelson’s team have built a printer specifically designed to do this. Their device lays down thin strips of hydrogel in a cubic lattice structure (see picture) intended to maximise the amount of surface area for a given volume of material. The cube, which has sides 1cm long in the current design, is then cured by a burst of ultraviolet light, to increase its rigidity. Turning one out takes about five minutes.

The fun starts when such a cube is plopped into a solution of glucose. The hydrogel is permeable to this solution, so the yeast is able to get to work on the glucose, converting it into ethanol as if it were the sugar in the wort of a brewery.

This, Dr Nelson had predicted. The surprise was that it keeps on doing so, day after day, week after week, as long as the fermented solution is regularly replaced with fresh. The team’s bioreactors have continued to produce ethanol in this way for over four months now, with no signs of slowing down. The cause of this desirable phenomenon is not yet clear. Dr Nelson believes that immobilising the yeast cells in the hydrogel somehow stops them both ageing and reproducing, without affecting their ability to ferment. Somehow, the cells’ confinement is signalling to them to stop growing without affecting their normal metabolism.

That discovery has enormous potential. If it could be industrialised, it would pave the way for continuous fermentation to replace today’s batch-processing approach, with all the advantages such continuity of production would bring. To this end, Dr Nelson now plans to scale up the size of the cubes. He also proposes to experiment with yeast cells engineered to turn out more complex molecules than ethanol—proteins, for example—that might have purposes other than getting people drunk. This may require tweaking the hydrogel, the current structure of which is likely to be too dense to permit the passage of a large protein molecule.

In the longer term, it is possible to imagine a chain of bioreactors, each specialised for a single step in the synthetic pathway that leads to a desirable product such as a drug. Dr Nelson’s first task, though, will be to increase the concentration of glucose in the bioreactor design that he knows, without question, works, in the hope of brewing up something stronger in his laboratory. “Can we take our yeast,” he wonders, “embed it in hydrogel, print it as a cube, put it in fruit juice and convert it to alcohol?” That thought, of a cheap, domestic hooch plant which works for months on end, will have brewers around the world wanting to pour themselves a stiff drink.

This article appeared in the Science and technology section of the print edition under the headline “Print me a brewery”

Water On, In and Above Earth

The image above shows blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth. Are you surprised that these water spheres look so small? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth. These images attempt to show three dimensions, so each sphere represents “volume.” They show that in comparison to the volume of the globe, the amount of water on the planet is very small. Oceans account for only a “thin film” of water on the surface.

Liquid fresh water

How much of the total water is fresh water, which people and many other life forms need to survive? The blue sphere over Kentucky represents the world’s liquid fresh water (groundwater, lakes, swamp water, and rivers). The volume comes to about 2,551,100 mi3 (10,633,450 km3), of which 99 percent is groundwater, much of which is not accessible to humans. The diameter of this sphere is about 169.5 miles (272.8 kilometers).

Water in lakes and rivers

Do you notice the “tiny” bubble over Atlanta, Georgia? That one represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet. Most of the water people and life of earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources. The volume of this sphere is about 22,339 mi3(93,113 km3). The diameter of this sphere is about 34.9 miles (56.2 kilometers). Yes, Lake Michigan looks way bigger than this sphere, but you have to try to imagine a bubble almost 35 miles high—whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 300 feet (91 meters).

One estimate of global water distribution
Water source
Percent of
Percent of
total water
Oceans, Seas, & Bays
Ice caps, Glaciers, & Permanent Snow
Soil Moisture
Ground Ice & Permafrost
Swamp Water
Biological Water
Source: Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).

Spheres representing all of Earth’s water, Earth’s liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers

The largest sphere represents all of Earth’s water. Its diameter is about 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas) and has a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)). This sphere includes all of the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, rivers, groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.

If you put a (big) pin to the largest bubble showing total water, the resulting flow would cover the contiguous United States (lower 48 states) to a depth of about 107 miles (171 km).

The data used on this page comes from Igor Shiklomanov’s estimate of global water distribution, shown in a table below.

Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS; globe illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (©); Adam Nieman.
Data source: Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).

How Do Sinkholes Form?