Grundfos strategies in intelligent water management solutions

Grundfos group senior vice-president Truls Lystang discusses ways to accelerate the net zero transition in Singapore and how the circular economy makes a business case for water companies to do more with less.

By Amira Yunos

Truls Lystang, group senior vice-president and head of global sales, industry, Grundfos

Singapore sustainability targets

With the Singapore Green Plan 2030 underway, how should industries accelerate the green transition here?

Truls Lystang: One area that Singapore industries should look at to accelerate their green transition is the energy efficiency of their water processes. Water is closely linked to energy, making up a part of their carbon footprint. It takes energy to transport, treat, and reuse water. On average, every cubic metre of water consumed generates 10.6kg of carbon emissions.* The industrial sector is also water intensive. Companies are the world’s largest water users, with nearly two-thirds of all freshwater resources used for producing ingredients for corporate supply chains.*

Industry players are recognising that operations will get more water intensive — water demand in manufacturing is expected to increase by 400% by 2050.* This will increase their carbon footprint. Singapore’s industrial-related sector is already the largest consumer of electricity with 22.3 terawatt-hour (TWh) in 2021, compared to commerce and services, and household.* It will continue to scale if we do not look at energy use in manufacturing processes — especially those involving water — and how we can reduce it.

Optimising energy efficiency in current manufacturing processes and operations holds potential in reducing water’s carbon footprint, and supports industries’ overall green transition strategy. An example is our work with Arla Foods.* As part of their 2050 net zero targets, one of their milestones was to lower their carbon emissions by 63% at 60 dairies worldwide by 2030. We were appointed in 2022 to support this by auditing the water systems across Arla’s global dairy sites to identify energy saving opportunities and upgrade their existing pumping systems for better energy efficiency with motors, pumps, and controls. We have since assessed two thirds of their sites and identified annual savings of 7 gigawatt-hour (GWh), with total expected savings around 10GWh. We have replaced the old pumps with our new intelligent pumps for chilled and iced water applications at Arla Westbury dairy in the UK, leading to energy savings per year of 481,800kWh and 194 tonnes of CO2, with a ROI of less than two years.

What are some intelligent water management solutions to achieve a net zero transition in Singapore?

Lystang: Through digitalisation, we can approach water use strategically. Traditionally, humanity’s relationship with the water system has been a one-way process, moving water from supply to demand. Now, new digital innovations are able turn this relationship into a dialogue — by retrieving feedback throughout the process. At Grundfos, we innovate across the water cycle and apply digital technologies with the aim to improve water circularity and efficiency.

Across the region and globally, real-time sensors and data analytics are used to conduct pre-emptive and predictive maintenance of the water system. These help to enhance operations and infrastructure resiliency, ensuring that water is used and managed optimally and prevents wastage of resources and energy.

For example, the energy intensive reverse osmosis (RO) is used to remove a majority of contaminants from water by pushing the water under pressure through a semipermeable membrane in water treatment. Digitalisation can improve RO’s energy efficiency. We worked with water treatment supplier Industrial Water Equipment (IWE) in the UK to provide intelligent RO solutions which provides greater control via variable-speed pumps powered by IE5 motors. The pump will vary, moving up and down in speed according to demand, which reduces the energy rating of the pumps used. In this case, intelligent RO demonstrated to save up to 70% energy per m3 water produced.

Another area where intelligent solutions can be applied is the energy intensive industrial boilers which are used to produce steam, heat water for space, process heating or for the generation of mechanical power and electricity. Grundfos came up with the iBoiler solution for production utilities, an intelligent system for boiler feed applications utilising Grundfos’ CRE pump through two ways: by maintaining the level within the boiler itself and operating at a duty point that runs at a lower speed.

Cooling towers and chillers, which remove heat from a building or facility, can be responsible for as much as 90% of site water use. Sometimes, a single system may be using more than 50% of required water.* Utilising smart digital solution in industrial process cooling can increase efficiency and reduce waste. For a global manufacturer of adhesives, resins, gelcoats, and special polymers, Grundfos intelligent pumps and pump application software are components in the company’s cooling systems, together with expert insights, collaboration and co-creation. The new solutions achieved 22% OPEX savings, a reduction of 128.26 tonnes in carbon emissions per year and achieved 1.8 years in pay-back time.*

How should Singapore best facilitate businesses’ collective effort to achieve net zero?

Lystang: One way is to support industries to understand the ‘how’ — while businesses are clear that operating sustainably is no longer a ‘nice to have’, the next step is raising greater awareness and education on how energy efficiency and circular principles are considered for businesses when embarking their sustainability journey.

Businesses need to first understand the scale of the issue and the level of resource use in their operations. From there, businesses can then understand the potential areas for optimisation and evaluate the different options. Singapore has looked to achieve that through the Energy Efficiency National Partnership (EENP), an industry-focused voluntary partnership programme for companies to be more energy efficient, enhancing long-term business competitiveness and reducing carbon footprint, with member companies enjoying discounts on training programmes and workshops.

Solution providers can also support these businesses to gain such understanding through audits. At Grundfos, we provide customers with an energy check called Grundfos Energy Check Advanced, which gives an overview of the lifecycle costs (LCC) of one or more pumps, looking at pump data such as flow, head and motor power consumption along with pump age and operating hours. The information helps facilitate decisions on pump replacement and cutting a company’s energy consumption, benefitting its financials and the environment.

Cost can also be a barrier for businesses in achieving net zero. There are incentives and grants to support industries such as the Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F), Singapore Certified Energy Manager (SCEM) training grant, and the Resource Efficiency Grand for Energy (Reg(E)).

Beyond these grants, businesses also need to look at the LCC of new solutions, especially with digital technologies, and understand that these solutions can deliver greater water and energy efficiency, and better performance, reducing the total cost of ownership.

Recognising this barrier as a water solutions provider, Grundfos is also exploring new business models such as Grundfos Energy Earnings, a payment service based on the as-a-service business model. It is a win-win business model designed to save energy without requiring an initial investment and allows customers to finance new pump solutions with a share of their energy earnings.

The circular economy

Share with us a Grundfos’ case study and the importance of businesses integrating the water-energy nexus.

Lystang: The water-energy nexus demonstrates that, to ensure sustainability of our resources, we must recognise that addressing each resource in silos is not a long-term solution. Water and energy are intrinsically linked, and the increased demand for one can affect the security of the other. The environmental benefits of considering the water-energy nexus when transitioning towards more sustainable operations are clear. By embracing higher energy efficient water, we stand to reduce both water and energy consumption, which helps reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Beyond protecting the environment and conserving our limited natural resources, embracing sustainability also makes a business case. For manufacturers, adopting water and energy-efficient solutions can achieve savings in both resources, thus cutting down operating costs. By tapping into real-time data, intelligent solutions will also allow manufacturers to monitor the conditions of their equipment in real-time and remotely, provide preventive maintenance insights to reduce unscheduled outages and losses, and achieve better energy efficiency and system optimisation.

Another example is our work with a global cider producer to improve their industrial cooling processes.* Industrial cooling, which moves large amounts of water, in turn becomes an energy intensive process. They integrated Grundfos iSOLUTIONS intelligent pumps and controls for their cooling system which has variable speed, conventional end-suction pumps with intelligent multi-pump controllers and external sensors. This enabled them to control and refine their cooling production to optimum levels while adapting to changes in process demands through our technologies. The factory reportedly has better control of its cooling processes too. Compared to a competitor’s solution, the new Grundfos system saves an estimated 30% energy on pumps and chillers. Since the condensing system is more efficient, the cooling towers need less water replacement. The company benefits from energy and water savings over conventional systems, as well as insights on data points. They can make adjustments quickly if they have process changes. The intelligence is also put into the building management system for transparent control and overview. The cider company thus achieved its goals in manufacturing quality cider for its customers while contributing to global sustainability.

How has Grundfos integrated sustainability into its operations to drive water and climate action? Similarly, how should other businesses capture the best value out of the circular transition?

Lystang: As a global leader in water technologies for over 75 years, we recognise that water solutions play a role in securing a sustainable future. Our new brand promise is to respect, protect, and advance the flow of water. In November 2022, Grundfos became the first organisation in the water solutions sector to receive full validation of our sustainability targets from the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). By 2030, we aim to reduce absolute scope 1 and scope 2 GHG emissions by 50% from 2020, and reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions by 25% from 2020. For our 2050 goal, we have committed to reducing absolute scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 GHG emissions by 90%, and reaching net zero GHG emissions across our value chain. Our SBTi net zero targets guide our sustainability ambitions, which include saving energy and water, ensuring a circular business and water access.

Saving energy is achieved through reducing GHG emissions, innovating products within our portfolio to save energy for end-users, transitioning to low-carbon technologies, and advocating for legislation supporting the green energy transition. For saving water, we apply the reduce, reuse and recycle principle to preserve water at every stage of the water cycle for our own business and end-users. For our products and solutions, our ambition is to enable customers to save water through water efficiency and water reuse. Grundfos pump solutions sold in 2022 have enabled our end-users to reuse over 1.8 billion m³ water per year. To create a more circular business model for our products and solutions, we need to prioritise reducing waste, using circular principles thinking when designing products, and optimising our take back and recycling schemes. Through forging new partnerships with customers over the last year, we increased our take back returns by 69% compared to 2021, with 64,288 kg pumps returned under our recycling programme in 2022.

At the core of our saving energy ambition is our ability to save end-users’ energy through smarter pumps and water processing solutions, reducing GHG emissions. Last year, we invested in energy related projects to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions with projects including on-site solar installations, remote energy monitoring systems and conversion to electric vehicles. With these, we reduced our own energy consumption by 4.4% in 2022. 2022 was also the first year Grundfos published our scope 3 emissions to provide sustainability data and tackle climate impact across our value chain.

In terms of how businesses can capture the best value out of the circular transition, they should consider holistic long-term policies that generate power and use water in environmentally responsible ways, doing more with less. This includes adopting more renewable energy resources and resource conservation. Getting more from less is the enduring feature of a circular economy.

*References available upon request

“Grundfos intelligent pumps and pump application software are components in the company’s cooling systems, together with expert insights, collaboration and co-creation.”

Truls Lystang, group senior vice-president and head of global sales, industry, Grundfos