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Awards 2024

Atkins leads on design and coordination for ‘world first’ net zero waste treatment plant

Severn Trent water company has recently unveiled its plans to create the world’s first carbon neutral waste treatment plant in Staffordshire, with work on the £40m project due to start in September

Atkins is playing a leading role in the design and coordination of the waste treatment plant, which is being built with investment from Ofwat’s Innovation Fund, Horizon Europe and Severn Trent.

In what is expected to be a world-leading facility when complete, the ‘net-zero hub’ will be home to new innovations and technologies to reduce and remove operational emissions, following collaboration with water companies around the world.

The project has the potential to cut greenhouse gas, with the water industry representing around 2-5% of UK’s carbon emissions – two thirds from waste treatment

The ground-breaking project is backed by all UK and Irish water companies and international Net Zero Partnership with Aarhus Vand in Denmark and Melbourne Water in Australia. It is set to transform a large, carbon intensive Wastewater Treatment Plant into the world’s first retro-fit carbon neutral site in Strongford.

Atkins has been providing a range of services as part of the initial feasibility study which has included:

  • Carbon accountancy methodology
  • Carbon baseline assessment
  • Technology assessment - review of 16 technologies including the Digital Twin
  • Feasibility assessment
  • Recommendation of technology implementation
  • Support for OFWAT funding bid

Atkins is currently working on the outline design which will be followed by a detailed design phase and construction is due for completion by April 2024.

As part of the design process a range of sustainable features are being included, supported by innovative technological solutions, all within a tight delivery programme.

In addition, Atkins will be leading the optimisation phase as well as long term performance reporting for schemes such as this, with the expectation of many more are due to be built by 2030.

According to Severn Trent’s recent announcement, the new ‘net-zero hub’ is being supported by the Ofwat Innovation Fund, which announced a £10 million cash injection earlier in May. A further £0.9 million has been secured through Horizon Europe and £28 million will be invested by Severn Trent.

How will it work?

The aim of the new facility is to eradicate c34,000 tonnes of carbon per year, by bringing together cutting edge technology solutions, integrated on one site for the first time.

The site will also house Digital Twin technology, which is a virtual representation of the whole treatment plant – including low carbon technologies. Atkins, along with Explore AI, Siemens and Xylem, will work on the Digital Twin to produce a virtual world which will allow Severn Trent to optimise technologies, see how they interact and automatically apply those learnings to the treatment plant. This will also reduce energy consumption at the site.

A blueprint design for the water industry

Severn Trent says the new hub, based at one of its biggest sites, will support its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and protecting the environment, while creating a ‘blueprint’ for all water companies to help them achieve their net zero commitments.

Richard Whale, Water Market Director for Atkins, said: “Developing technology and designing infrastructure that delivers on our net zero commitments, is at the core of our business today, and will be in the future.

“This is an exciting scheme to be involved in, not only for what it can achieve in the Midlands on this one site, but for the potential going forward as a blueprint for water companies across the UK.

“Our long experience working in the water sector, coupled with advances in our decarbonisation technology means we are well places to support this initiative and deliver industry leading design for a world-leading facility.”

Severn Trent’s project is one of 16 solutions being awarded a share of £40 million in the water regulator Ofwat’s latest innovation competition – the Water Breakthrough Challenge.

David Black, CEO at Ofwat, said: “The water sector has faced mounting pressure over systemic challenges related to the environment and society, while the climate around us continues to drastically change shape. That’s why we’re funding ground-breaking innovations with potential to help us save and reuse water and wastewater products, while supporting wider society.”

Atkins leads on design and coordination for ‘world first’ net zero waste treatment plant – SNC-Lavalin (