Back in December of 2021, our Chief Technical Officer and our Head of Product Success took a cross-country trip from the west coast of Canada to the small community of Atholville, New Brunswick on the east coast.
The pair visited the Atholville Mill, a specialty cellulose pulp mill operated by AV Group NB. Part of the mill's operations include a wastewater treatment process and we were able to meet with members of their team in person to see how they are using the Pani platform in their day-to-day operations.
During our time there, we were able to get a tour of the facility and talk to team members like Chelsea Petersen, Environmental Supervisor, Andre Gallant, Technical Manager, and Tina McCormack, Safety, Health, and Environment Manager. We also met with some of the operators that are using Pani in their daily workflows to optimize wastewater treatment processes.
Three Ways Pani Works at this Industrial Wastewater Plant
1. Enabling remote monitoring to aid with environmental compliance
Environmental compliance was a key issue identified since the mill's effluent is discharged into the nearby Restigouche River. This environmentally-sensitive river is as a local recreational area and source of economic activity for surrounding communities. Ensuring that the water flowing out of the facility meets environmental regulations is a top priority.
“Our environmental permit is our only permit to operate. If we’re not meeting our compliance regulations, that poses a risk for the future of our company. -Chelsea Petersen, Environmental Supervisor
“What keeps me up at night is compliance. Environment is one of our most important KPI, key process indicator, so we must ensure that the water quality leaving this facility is always in compliance.” -Andre Gallant, Technical Manager
The Pani platform helps the team understand how the plant is functioning at any given moment, keeping track of flow, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), total suspended solids (TSS), and permeate rates and sending alert notifications when set limits or thresholds are hit. This keeps treatment processes on track and lets staff rest easy knowing they have a good sense of what's coming and how to best adjust operations when something seems wrong.
2. Providing proactive trending and analysis
Most water and wastewater treatment facilities have an overwhelming amount of data flowing through their system. Depending on the plant's level of digital maturity, some of the data capture and analysis processes may be entirely manual, entirely automated, or somewhere in between. In every case, it takes operators a significant amount of time, effort, and attention to do regular trending and analysis of the data, interpreting information from various sources to produce performance reports.
“It gives us the opportunity to be more proactive on all of the data we have. So, we do have a lot of data, we just don’t have the time. Pani offers us that solution to actually do the trending and do the analysis for us, so it’s like having your own process engineer onsite.” -Tina McCormack, Safety, Health, and Environment Manager
The Pani platform can not only help with data gathering and management, but it can also help operational teams at facilities perform faster analysis to identify the root cause of issues quickly and address those issues before they result in downtime.
Downtime can be expensive due to the loss of production and it can also have unexpected costs associated with it, as is the case with industrial wastewater systems like the one at AV Group. If the system goes down, there is a risk of discharge exceeding regulatory limits until the problem is resolved and the system returns to normal. This can result in fines and added costs in equipment replacements and overtime labour.
“Pani will be able to help us meet our regulatory requirements by taking all of our information, whether it’s sensor data, test data, lab data, putting it into one area and it’s offering us an overview and an analysis of everything in one spot, and giving us recommendations based on previous events that have happened over time in similar situations.” -Chelsea Petersen, Environmental Supervisor
3. Offering a mentoring and training tool
Operators have a vast range of experience and their ability to address potential issues rapidly often depends on whether or not they've seen a similar issue arise before. Pani is able to provide training for new operators, familiarizing them with specific plant sensors and KPIs through the easy-to-use platform, establishing baselines over time.
The Pani platform also offers targeted recommendations and actions that can improve plant performance, helping novice and experienced operators change set points to maximize efficiency, reducing energy consumption and extending the life of assets like pumps and membranes.
"At the management level, it gives us a training tool, some kind of comfort level that the operators have some kind of guidance or mentoring program. And at the senior leadership level, it gives us a dashboard of where our treatment plant is and also this comfort level that the focus is on the right thing for the operation." -Andre Gallant, Technical Manager
Additionally, the platform provides management with an overview of plant performance so that operational decisions can be adjusted to meet goals and targets.
We built Pani to help teams like this one get the most out of their plant's data to ensure they are able to meet their environmental regulations, save operator time and focus, and share their knowledge and experience with new team members more easily.