In this part of the expert interviews series we interviewed Dipl.-Ing. Gerhard Spatzierer, Mr. DI Dr. Wolfgang Scherz, MBA and Mr. DI Manfred Assmann from the Austrian Water and Waste Management Association (ÖWAV).
The Austrian Water and Waste Management Association has 2,300 members from the fields of water, sewage and waste management. The main areas of activity are the drafting of the Technical Regulations and the drafting of opinions on draft laws and regulations within the framework of work committees and on the other hand in the field of education and training.
How have the Austrian and international market in the water and sewage sector developed in the past and what are the consequences for the Austrian industry?
Spatzierer: Between 1975 and 1995 the focus was on the first-time fitting of cities and municipalities with sewerage and sewage treatment plants. On the part of science, design, the construction industry and the manufacturers of the technical equipment components there were corresponding potentials in Austria. From the mid-nineties onwards, the adaptation of the plants to the state of the art, which has now been practically completed, was carried out on the basis of the wastewater emission ordinances. The need for new plants is now limited to the rehabilitation of older plants as well as to the conversion and expansion. The order situation of the Austrian plant manufacturers has thereby deteriorated considerably. That is why domestic companies have also attempted to gain a foothold abroad, but only very few - often only in cooperation with German or other foreign companies - have managed. Especially for larger projects the specification of references is necessary. Since plants are expanded and adapted in Austria, but are only being rebuilt in a few cases, it is difficult to provide references from recent years. This led to a company outflow in Austria. Those companies that still exist, for example SW Umwelttechnik, STRABAG or VTA GmbH, are mainly active abroad. The lack of references due to projects in Austria also affects the planning offices. There are big competitors in the USA, Holland, France or Germany.
There is currently a great market potential, especially in Eastern Europe. In countries such as Turkey or Ukraine, there are opportunities, but, besides know-how, you have to bring in capital and references, know the local conditions well, bring in a local partner to implement projects.
How do you assess the role of domestic companies in the national, European and international water and sewage technology market?
Spatzierer: Austrian companies usually work in niches, but in some of them they are in some leading positions.
Scherz: Austrian companies must enter into cooperative ventures. Some companies also work internationally under a general planner. Owing to the volume of investment, domestic companies often can not cope with orders alone.
Spatzierer: Angerlehner GmbH, Rabmer Kanal and Strabag are among other important companies in the area of underground sewer rehabilitation (see, for example, the Austrian Association for Trenchless Construction and Maintenance of Pipelines: ÖGL). They are also active internationally.
Assmann: Planners are multipliers. Large planning offices can operate across Europe. This could also bring Austrian technology and know-how to other countries. With very few exceptions, we usually have only smaller offices. A planner with more than 30 employees is big in Austria, but it is difficult to handle the market in Romania or Bulgaria. There are companies with many 100 employees abroad who are able to tap into the market better.
What role does the export market play for domestic companies? Where are the relevant markets?
Spatzierer: Western Europe is a difficult market because the competition is huge. There are strong players in the individual countries.
Scherz: These companies have better references as these countries are still being built. Due to the structure specific to Austria, it is difficult for domestic companies to gain an international footing.
Spatzierer: As a subcontractor, Austrian companies are active as far as Canada and the USA. The problem that cheap products come from Asia, as is the case in other areas of environmental technology, is usually not present in the water and sewage sector. Austrian companies are active in the field of control technology in Asia, but only in the niche sector. You need there offices and people on the ground to take a foot, otherwise it is very difficult.
Scherz: The advantage of the Eastern European market is that it is also possible to work from Austrian locations in these markets. There are certainly niche projects in Africa but we can not talk about market shares here.
What are the advantages of the location Austria for companies in the water and sewage technology sector?/strong>
Assmann: Austria is the core market. You do not earn the big money, but it is a very stable market. This is very important for many international companies. In Hungary, for example, there are currently major problems such as expropriations and price depression. In the growth markets, the risk is greater, but there is also greater financial potential. In the years of the economic crisis, however, the Austrian market has become more attractive due to its stability.
Which support services do domestic companies need to achieve in the national and international market?
Scherz: It is important from the operator's point of view in the national market that the standard that we have created together over the last decades can be maintained. This will have to be done continuously. It should be borne in mind that investment in water protection has hitherto been approx. EUR 55 billion (valorized). The high standard of water protection can only be ensured over generations only if the functionality is retained and therefore the value of the value is achieved. The mainly municipal owners of the facilities therefore also need incentives in the form of subsidies to keep the plants in good time and to make sufficient reinvestments.
Spatzierer: SMEs in particular need support and support when they wish to go abroad. An entry into the foreign market is associated with a lot of risk. Pricing is difficult, given that it is not possible to make use of innovations that are protected by patents.
What is the role of the innovative power of domestic companies?
Spatzierer: Innovative power is important for Austrian companies because we can only offer in niches. For the mass market, we are too small, because we can not keep up. In the case of EMSR technology, but also in secondary settling tank technology, in calculation systems, etc., there are good opportunities for Austrian companies. However, these are just a few small segments where local companies have made an international breakthrough.
In which areas do Austrian companies have the technological leadership or are in top position?
Spatzierer: In Austria there is generally a very high level of environmental technology.
Scherz: In recent years, a change has taken place between the installer company and the operating company.
Assmann: This also requires special technologies and a special conveyor system. These are questions of value, function and maintenance. I see opportunities at the technological and process engineering level, as other countries will come to this stage as well. A technological advance in this area will be expected in the future.
Spatzierer: Technology from Austria, for example anaerobic systems, is already being used internationally. Austria is so well on the road.
What major technological changes are expected in the water and sewage technology sector in the coming years?
Spatzierer: In my opinion, energy-efficient plants and energy saving will become an important issue. The use of efficient drives as well as the screening of the system within the energy check are essential. Without a component replacement, the savings potential lies in a maximum of 10-15%. However, energy savings of up to 30-35% are possible through the exchange of power packs. It is also possible to feed co-substrates into the digestion and thereby generate additional energy. This is no longer directly related to the actual sewage purification, because one gains the energy from another area. This makes a sewage treatment plant also a waste treatment plant in the legal sense, for which the approvals are also to be obtained.
Scherz: The city of Wiener Neustadt is, for example, supplied with biomethane from the wastewater treatment plant, which is also approved for waste disposal, on the basis of a cooperation with EVN Wärme GmbH. Up to 40% of the gas requirement can be covered with treated biogas from the sewage treatment plant on summer days. This is, however, a special feature and not always possible. The installation of combined heat and power plants for heat and electricity generation is easily implemented and implemented on sewage treatment plants with fault towers.
Spatzierer: The topic of energy-efficient sewage treatment plants is a vision. In the case of large sewage treatment plants, it is possible, even without the admixture of co-substrates. An example EBS Wien, where such a project is to be implemented in the coming years. The goal is now to implement a sewage sludge for energy generation even with smaller sewage treatment plants (from approx. 10,000 EW).
The sewage treatment by means of membrane technology stood on the threshold of a broader application about 15 years ago. However, the development of the membranes (especially cost reduction) has not taken place to the ex- pected extent, so the topic has now less relevance.
The removal of trace substances such as antibiotics, pesticides and industrial chemicals, which are present in the wastewater in very low concentrations, to play a role in the future. There are also some developments and investigations in Austria. Ozone or activated carbon can be used as a fourth cleaning step in order to remove these traces of traces. This is currently state of the art. A test facility was run on the main wastewater treatment plant Vienna by the Vienna University of Technology for the removal of trace substances by ozone. Further investigations with powdered activated carbon are to follow.
These topics are also being researched at universities. The Umweltbundesamt is also an important partner in the area of trace substances.
Scherz: From the operator's point of view, we must emphasize that we are still involved in basic research in the field of trace elements. There are still many open questions which must be answered first. A lot of questions have to be clarified, in particular, regarding the entry thread, the material flow and the relevance or level of protection. In addition, trace substances are not just a topic of wastewater disposal. Traces are ubiquitously present and come from many shoots. Basic research is therefore important in several areas. Concentrations are now moving in the nanogram range. This area is being developed by increasingly sophisticated analysis technology. The basic research in the field of ecotoxicology and humane toxicology should therefore be pursued before an implementation on the sewage treatment plants should be discussed. As a result, application research (ozonation or activated carbon) is still less important in this area but will become more important in the coming years.
Spatzierer: Currently, the current EU regulations do not pose any problems for Austrian operators. However, if further substances such as medicinal products are included in the list of priority substances, there would be a need for action.
Which research facilities in Austria deal with the topic of water and sewage treatment and what position do they have in an international comparison?
Austrian universities such as the Vienna University of Technology, BOKU Vienna, Innsbruck University of Technology and Graz University of Technology are represented at international conferences at international conferences. These research impulses have produced very good results in the industry. The Austrian sewage treatment plants are state of the art - with a few exceptions - and meet all European directives. As far as research into the company is concerned, it can be said that research facilities have previously worked very closely with plant manufacturers. In Austria, plant manufacturers hardly have their own research facilities. University research in this area is very application-oriented. There was a great link between research, industry and users. Now, in many cases, unfortunately, the partners of the plant manufacturers are not able to meet the above reasons.
Scherz: An important point is that the basic research in Austria has not come short. Since Austria has a good technological standard, it is important to maintain this standard. For example, trace elements are an important research focus. Application research is carried out in parallel. Since this is a topic of the future, it will only be possible to implement the technology later in this area. In the future, it will be important to invest primarily in research on new technologies, as these sectors will have to be abandoned or migrated abroad.
Assmann: Many Austrian university graduates are looking for work abroad. Since Austria already has a channel connection degree of 94% and max. 97 - 98% can be considered achievable. In other countries there is much more potential. Austria is already well equipped.
What developments are expected in the coming years, where will the priorities lie in the future?
Spatzierer: Now comes the first renewal phase of the plants. The constructional life span is approx. 25 - 40 years for structural systems, with machine equipment, every 5 - 7 years improvements have to be made after 10 - 15 years and with measuring and control devices. Some of these components can still be supplied by local producers, but much has to be bought, since industry is missing in Austria.
Scherz: There will certainly be a need for the renewal and expansion of existing plants in the next 5-10 years. It is important that consideration is also given to the areas of organizational structures. In this way efficiency potentials can be raised under certain circumstances. A key word in this context is inter-communal cooperation. In addition, the issue of benchmarking, which has already been offered by the ÖWAV in a mature and standardized form for a decade, should become a matter of course for the operators.
The issue of new closures is of little importance in the future, which can be done by the local construction industry. Kleinkläranlagen is also an issue in some areas. Monitoring and operation of these systems is also an important issue. There are Austrian companies that deal with this, but here the competitive pressure from abroad is clearly noticeable.
Spatzierer: The tasks of the future are thus given: it is maintenance and repair. Especially in the channel area, this is a huge task field. There are companies that specialize in this field. At the moment the orders are still missing as the renewal rates are below 0.5%. However, 2-3% would be required. There is a lack of legal framework and, above all, enforcement and the necessary investments.
The new value of the channel infrastructure in Austria amounts to € 55 billion. At the moment, we're just driving a "fire-fighting strategy". This means that measures are taken only in the event of a leak. The problem is thus passed on to the next generation. The costs will be the same for a later date, because then u.U. the whole system needs to be renewed. Annual investment is more important than a large investment in the future.The new value of the channel infrastructure in Austria amounts to € 55 billion. At the moment, we're just driving a "fire-fighting strategy". This means that measures are taken only where there are clogging or leaks, where smell emissions occur, the road breaks or where a new connection is needed. The problem is thus passed on to the next generation. The costs will certainly be higher at a later date, because then u.U. the whole system needs to be renewed. Annual investment is more meaningful than a large investment in the future.
Sewage sludge will also be an important issue. There are two points to consider:
1. What happens to the sewage sludge? Is a combustion or agricultural utilization more meaningful?
The output is above all a problem in agglomeration centers, i. in this case not feasible. In rural areas, however, agricultural sewage sludge utilization could still play a certain role in the future.
2. Phosphorus in sewage sludge or the question of recovery for use as fertilizer or in the chemical industry.
The questions of direct agricultural utilization of sewage sludge are hygienic aspects and a possible risk of trace substances. The conventional pollutants (heavy metals) are generally no longer a problem as much has been done on the quota side with the Austrian Indirect Initiation Ordinance and the sector-specific wastewater emission ordinances.
Scherz: Phosphorus recovery is not a daily topic. It has, however, very strategic importance for the operators. Studies have shown that e.g. in Lower Austria, up to 20% of the agricultural requirements could be covered by the phosphorus contained in sewage sludge. Regional approaches should therefore be developed, which can be implemented if necessary. From today's point of view, the world market costs for the finite resource of phosphorus are likely to become economically interesting at a point in time. In parallel, the policy should be concerned about phosphorus steering, as is already the case in the Scandinavian countries.
Studium Technische Chemie – Verfahrenstechnik an der TU Wien
1973 - 1979: Assistent am Institut für Wassergüte, Abwasserreinigung und Gewässerschutz der TU Wien
1979 - 1982: Referent beim ÖWAV
Seit 1982: Amt der Burgenländischen Landesregierung, Leiter der Gewässeraufsicht
2006 –2011: Vorstand der Abteilung 9 – Wasser- und Abfallwirtschaft +
1981 bis 1988: Studium Kulturtechnik und Wasserwirtschaft, Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
1995 bis 1998: Doktorat Kulturtechnik und Wasserwirtschaft
2009 bis 2011: MBA in general management, emca
Mitarbeiter in ZT-Büro
Mitarbeiter des Amtes der NÖ Landesregierung
Selbständigkeit als Ingenieurkonsulent
seit 2000: Geschäftsführer des Abwasserverbandes WIENER NEUSTADT-SÜD
Studium Kulturtechnik und Wasserwirtschaft, Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
Geschäftsführer des Österreichischen Wasser- und Abfallwirtschaftsverbands
Manfred Assmann neuer Obmann des KulturtechnikerInnen-Verbands an der Universität für Bodenkultur (KT-Verband)