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Research and Development

The Hera Group's research activities in the first half of 2010 chiefly concerned the development of environmental monitoring and control technologies, energy efficiency, optimization of the networks, and the technological development of renewable sources.

Leading research projects were:

  • Energy Laboratory

    Energy Laboratory. In 2009, the plan for the Energy Laboratory was finalised. In the first half of 2010, requests for authorisations were submitted and the executive plan was drawn up, with the goal of starting works by the end of 2010. It calls for an experimental centre for applied research on energy generation from renewable and alternative sources, which will be built in Forlė (near the Regional Remote Control Hub and the laboratories for analysing solid waste, sludge, dioxins and atmospheric emissions). This will evaluate various technologies, from those already available on the market to prototypes, with the help of an advanced network for measuring and acquiring data. The experimental activities will be managed in collaboration with the University of Bologna.


  • Emerging Pollutants Project

    Emerging Pollutants Project. The term "Emerging Pollutants" (EP) means various biologically active substances of anthropic origin such as personal care products, medicines, psychoactive substances associated with drug addiction, and the relevant metabolites. Interfering endocrines is an unusual and transversal category compared to those listed above. The presence of these substances in the water is considered to be one of the most important environmental problems of the last decade. The problem affects both in Europe and in the United States. These pollutants enter the water systems through the residue of human or animal metabolism or their direct use in industry and agriculture. Hera started a research project in 2007 aimed at identifying the major EPs in the water systems (with particular reference to the natural water allocated for purification for drinking), developing analytical methods for determining their quantities, performing surveys on the presence of these substances in the water systems involved, and evaluating the removal effectiveness of current treatment systems (potability and purification). Hera takes an active part in the study group "Interfering endocrines and water intended for human consumption" (www.edinwater.com) promoted by the AMGA Foundation of Genoa (www.fondazioneamga.it). Other Italian multiutilities, various university departments and the Italian Institute of Health are members of the study group. In 2008, cooperation was also initiated with the Centro Ferrara Ricerche and with the Mario Negri Institute to investigate micro-pollutants from pharmaceuticals in wastewater. During 2009, the Group acquired some analytical methodologies and tested them in Group laboratories, and also performed some analyses on natural drinking water. Other analyses were performed on wastewater samples in collaboration with the Mario Negri Institute.

  • Environmental Catalysis Project

    Environmental Catalysis Project. The project, started in 2007 in collaboration of the University of Bologna and with the participation of the Italian Institute of Health, envisages reviewing the use of traditional catalytic converters used to abate NOx emissions and dioxins. During 2007, several commercial catalytic converters were analysed with outstanding results, especially for those used on the Group's plants. During 2008, a new filter prototype was designed and plans were made for detailed sampling and analysis of emissions by means of analyses by Group laboratories in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Health. Sampling began in 2009 at the new waste-to-energy plant in Forlė.
    At the same time, a study was performed on a catalytic converter used by the Group, with promising results.
    The analysis of the data collected continued in the first half of 2010.

  • Automatic Leakage Detection Project

    Automatic Leakage Detection Project. This project consists of studying innovative systems for automatically locating water leaks, to be used with the remote reading system. A test site was set up in 2007, and tests were carried out under different environmental conditions. The first experimental results were very interesting. In 2008, investigative techniques were refined by developing a device for automatic unsupervised data acquisition in the field, developing a statistical analysis tool on the MatLabŪ platform and designing a device to simulate water leaks. The device was built in 2009 and installed at actual user locations together with data acquisition tools developed in the previous year.

  • Bio-Hydro Project

    Bio-Hydro Project. The project aims to develop a disposal cycle for organic waste from the agricultural-livestock sector consisting of the hydrogen fermentation of certain types of agricultural-livestock waste, and in the methane co-digestion of residuals for this process with other agricultural-livestock waste and/or the organic separation of solid urban waste. The project was carried out in collaboration with Herambiente and engineering faculty at the University of Bologna and was co-financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forests. In the first half of 2010 the initial activities for analysing the agricultural-livestock waste were launched.

  • Automatic Plant Operation Project

    Automatic Plant Operation Project. The project, developed in cooperation with ENEA, involves the development of a system for the automatic management of the main function parameters in the water supply service plants. The system shall maintain the process conditions of a specified plant within its maximum efficiency, based on the composition of the incoming wastewater (purifiers) or of the incoming raw water (potability treatment plants). The objectives are to guarantee the quality of the final product and to reduce energy consumption. Work began in 2008 on the water treatment plant at Calderara di Reno (Bologna province), which will be used as the test site. In 2009, the analysis and control tools were installed at the site and field data acquisition was initiated. In the first half of 2010 the development of the software module for managing batch processes was completed.


  • Modelling Project for Plants of the Water Cycle

    Modelling Project for Plants of the Water Cycle. The project expects to develop mathematical models for the purpose of hydraulic and process simulation of purification plants. The objective is to acquire the tools and know-how needed to coordinate mathematical modelling of the plants of the Integrated Water Cycle. This activity will take place alongside the already consolidated network models to support operations, strengthen the plants, and increase their efficiency. The project is being carried out in collaboration with ENEA. In 2009, preliminary activities to develop a model of the sample site and to select off-the-shelf calculation software were performed. These activities continued in the first half of 2010.