It is a journey that goes deep below the surface: 10 meters, 50 meters, 80 meters. Soon the elevator stops and the doors open. 84 meters beneath the megacity of London is a pump station belonging to British water utility Thames Water. Bilfinger supplies the automation technology for the powerful pumps in the Lee Tunnel.
A look at the 7 km-long Lee Tunnel; Image: Thames Water
Six pumps with a total output of 18,000 liters per second have to pump water to treatment plants and work without interruption. The experts at Bilfinger Industrial Automation Services ensure everything runs smoothly. “We measure the vibrations, pressures, temperatures and flow rates of the systems,” says Managing Director Dave Pickles. Potential malfunctions can be identified early and steps can be taken to avoid them.
The figures from Thames Water are impressive: every day, 2.6 billion liters of drinking water flow through the faucets of 15 million customers – that’s 27 percent of the population. 4.4 billion liters of waste water flows through the sewer system and is cleaned in treatment plants. Thames Water is the largest water utility in the UK and also the largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world.
But the sewer system, which has its origins in Victorian times, currently reaches its limits when heavy rains fall. A new tunnel system, which also includes the Lee Tunnel with pumps monitored and maintained by Bilfinger, will collect the huge volume of water and route it to treatment plants.
Bilfinger’s automation expertise is also in demand for another major project beneath London. Thames Water’s control technology is being modernized and expanded. Around 5,000 pumps and pressure control valves are to be fitted with sensor technology and digitally controlled. Bilfinger technology identifies leaks in the sewer system early, before customers complain to Thames Water. The data obtained and the longstanding maintenance experience of Bilfinger are Thames Water’s “eyes and ears” explains Jerry White, Head of Business Engagement and Operational Technology at the company.
Unidentified leaks in the sewer system, which result in environmental pollution, are a thing of the past. The provision and analysis of data measurements prevents high penalties. “The project is reducing costs at Thames Water and increasing its efficiency. This allows the water supplier to increase its customers’ satisfaction”, says Duncan Hall, Executive President MMO Northwest Europe.