Software developed in New Zealand is helping to pump water efficiently in some of the world’s greatest cities — and doing its bit for the environment in the process.
Auckland-based Derceto has also this month inked a deal with a UK support company that will help push its software even further into the UK market.
Derceto’s online pump scheduling software optimises pump and valve schedules to minimise energy use, distribution costs, and carbon footprint. Since spinning out of professional services consultancy Beca in 2004, the company has sold its software to water distribution companies in Australia and North America, and more recently, the European market.
Out of 17 large water distribution companies in the UK, Derceto is working with nine, says its chief technology officer, Simon Bunn. It is also being used by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, one of the top 10 water utilities in the US.
Pumping water around cities is a huge user of energy around the world, says Bunn. “About 3% of total energy production in any first world country goes into water and wastewater pumping,” he says.
Shifting water around the distribution system is very complex, with lots of options, he says.
Derceto’s software hooks up directly to a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, which is used by most water companies. The system provides live data, which the software reads and uses to choose the lowest cost solution for water production and distribution, says Bunn.
The software looks at the cost of each production source, such as river plants or a lake plants, and decides which source to use. It also chooses the lowest cost transport path, he says.
Demand Side Management (DSM) — moving load in time — and minimising penalty charges are also part of the software, says Bunn.
“Reducing the amount of total energy used is another way we save money for our clients, but it also has a secondary benefit. Because you are more efficient, you are actually reducing your carbon footprint, and that is seen as a big driver for our clients, especially in the UK.”
Derceto’s tool helps achieve a 6-9% efficiency gain, he says. For water distribution in the UK, that equals about 400,400 GWh per year. The 6-9% saving on efficiency is worth somewhere between 120,000-170,000 tones of greenhouse gas reduction per year, he says.
Derceto does not yet have any real competition, says Bunn.
“It won’t last, and we have kept on saying for the last seven years it won’t last. But there is no one else, still.”
Last week, Bunn had just returned from a conference in the UK where companies were presenting solutions for about 20 pumps, taking less than 10 days to find a solution. He says Derceto has solutions running 260 pumps, taking less than 90 seconds to find a solution.
Version 6 of the Derceto software is due to come out early next year, he says.
Bunn was part of the control systems group at Beca. The first stage of the software was built by Beca for New Plymouth District Council in 1997. There followed a very successful project for Wellington regional council in 2000, he says, and it became apparent that the software could be even more successful if developed by an independent company.
The company has since expanded into the Australian and North American markets, and in the last year, into the European market, in particular the UK.
The company has recently inked a deal with UK-based professional support services company Mouchel Parkman, under which the British company is Derceto’s implementation partner.
“Mouchel Parkman will start taking over more and more of our workload, because we can’t grow fast enough. New Zealand is too small for us to get the sort of people we need to grow the business,” says Bunn.
Mouchel Parkman’s managing director of utilities, Piers Clark, says that Derceto’s software generates significant cost savings.
“Also, by constantly analysing data and adjusting its schedule to reflect changing demand and other variables in real time, it allows water distribution companies to improve operating efficiency in a way other products on the market do not. This reduces their operating costs and, increasingly importantly, their carbon footprint,” he says.
Derceto’s staff has grown from seven in 2004 to 21 today. The employees have degrees in electrical engineering, engineering science or computer science, says Bunn. The engineering team do advanced mathematics and some coding, while the “hardcore coders” — a team of four — programs the software fulltime. Derceto is looking to expand the developer team.
Derceto has been a Delphi house for some time but the company is now evaluating whether to jump ship, as Delphi is getting harder and harder to support, he says. There are also less people in the pool who are good Delphi developers, he adds. The company will most likely go for C#, he says.
However, a potential change-over can’t cause any problems for the clients, he says.
“You can’t expect to trial stuff when you are running water distribution in Washington DC or London. It has to work.”
Therefore, the company has a rigorous process of testing to make sure there are no hiccups when rolling out new upgrades.