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Research and Development

The Group’s research activities once again chiefly concerned the optimisation of the network management, the environmental monitoring systems, the recovery of energy and materials from waste, and technological development in renewable sources.

Leading research projects during 2006 concerned:

 
  • Automatic Leakage Detection Project

    Automatic Leakage Detection Project. The project has come about as a natural development of the X-Water project and involves the study of innovative systems for the automatic detection of water losses to be used together with the remote reading system.

     
  • CO2 project

    The CO2 project. Launched in 2005, the project aims to reduce sewage sludge and greenhouse gas emissions. It involves experimentation of an innovative technology for capturing CO2 issuing from exhaust gas produced by any combustion process and its use in the process of anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge. The positive completion of the first stage was achieved in 2006, and the conclusive tests demonstrated a CO2 capturing capacity of up to 70% of the emissions treated. Activities continued with the second stage, relating to the use of the captured CO2 in order to reduce the sludge contained in the digesters (- 20%) and produce a greater quantity of methane gas (+ 30%).

     
  • Electro-osmotic reclamation of sewage sludge

    Electro-osmotic reclamation of sewage sludge. The aim of the project is to apply the electrokinetic techniques used for reclaiming polluted land, so as to improve the features of sewage sludge. The first tests carried on a micro-prototype disclosed interesting results as far as the removal of the pollutant content matter was concerned. Experimentation will continue during 2007 on a large-scale prototype.

     
  • Emerging Pollutants Project

    Emerging Pollutants Project. The presence of pharmaceutical compounds in the water is considered to be one of the most important environmental problems in the last decade. These are pharmaceuticals and their metabolites belonging to various treatment categories, used in medicine and veterinary practice. The problem is perceived both in Europe and in the United States. Pharmaceutical products, intact or metabolized, are excreted and end up in the sewage system, passing via the treatment plants where they can escape decomposition, and end up in the water in our environment. Accordingly, Hera has put together a research project whose activities will commence in 2007, which will set up accurate, sensitive and rapid analytical methods for determining which compounds, and to what extent, are present in the waste waters and in those intended for human consumption.

     
  • Environmental Catalysis Project

    Environmental Catalysis Project. This project, set up in 2006 and whose activities will commence in 2007, envisages checking the use of traditional catalytic converters, used to reduce NOx from gas emissions, also for the reduction of dioxins.

     
  • Ferrara Waters Project

    Ferrara Waters Project. Action aimed at providing support to the management of the hydraulic network of Ferrara by means of cutting-edge technological solutions, such as mathematical simulation models and forecast models for the overhaul of water pipelines. During 2006, the mathematical model of the network was developed and the first measures for division into districts implemented. Effective leakage detection campaigns have also been carried out, availing of acoustic instrumentation.

     
  • Fuel-Cell Project

    Fuel-Cell Project. Construction of plants for distributed production of electricity and heat through combustion cells fuelled by methane or hydrogen. During 2006, a polymeric-membrane cell prototype was created fuelled by reformed methane.

     
  • Polluting Defence Project

    Polluting Defence Project. Development and application of new instruments for remote monitoring of the quality of drinking and waste waters and gas emissions. The objective is to monitor in real time several important water and air quality parameters, reducing pollution risks and laboratory analysis costs. After the positive experience in on-line monitoring at the water treatment plant in Val di Setta (Bologna), and Ravenna, in 2006 installation of a similar instrument began at the Ferrara plant (Pontelagoscuro), for the purpose of monitoring the efficiency of the water treatment processes.

     
  • X-water Project

    X-water Project. Experimentation of remote reading of waters applied to a pilot section of the distribution network. The project aims to provide indications on the applicability of remote reading to the recording of physical network leakage. By controlling the water balance of the district daily, it emerged as possible to precisely record the volumes of incoming and outgoing water, thereby permitting prompt intervention in the event of breakage and thus leakage.