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Grangemouth setting future standard for environmental monitoring

by david.nunes

Grangemouth setting future standard for environmental monitoring

Businesses could soon better understand their impact on the environment, minimise environmental risk and more effectively monitor waste, because of a research and development (R&D) project underway at Grangemouth, one of the UK’s largest and most important industrial sites.

The collaborative pilot project – involving environmental analytics software start-up, Topolytics; chemical manufacturer, CalaChem; air quality monitoring equipment provider, Air Monitors Ltd; Falkirk Council; the Scottish Government; the University of St Andrews; and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems – aims to enhance decision-making by allowing users to better understand, and have more confidence in, data produced by environmental sensors.

Current sensor systems will detect when there is an issue to be addressed at a particular location; however, they can generate incorrect readings. This may be due to something as innocuous as a bird standing over a sensor or a break in the clouds causing a sudden rise in temperature.

In this pilot project, Topolytics is incorporating statistical models developed by the University of St Andrews into its software. The sensors at Grangemouth are designed to measure sulphate emissions, carbon dioxide levels, wind speed, precipitation, humidity and other meteorological conditions, with the resulting data feeding into the models and then through Topolytics’s dashboard. The aim of the pilot is to enhance Topolytics’s capabilities and improve understanding of the behaviour of environmental monitoring sensors.

Professor Simon Dobson, Director of Research at the University of St Andrews School of Computer Science, explained: “A lot of the data produced by sensors is noise – it’s not always clear how that data should be filtered through into decision-making, which can be tricky in situations where decisive action is required quickly.

“What we’re doing will cut through all that noise and help decision-makers see what they actually need to, if anything at all. The statistical modelling we’re using will be able to identify and eliminate many of the false positives that crop up so frequently – particularly in highly-regulated markets such as petrochemicals, which require a great deal of monitoring.”  

The pilot project feeds into Topolytics’s ongoing product development, which sees it measure and monitor a growing range of environmental data, including solid waste and recycling, water, effluent and air emissions. The data may come from fixed and mobile sensors/meters, airborne scanners and weighbridges.

With the global market for environmental monitoring and sensing expected to be worth £15 billion by 2020, Topolytics sees great potential for its services in the petrochemical and primary resources sectors; in addition to the manufacturing and commercial property companies with which it already works. 

Michael Groves, CEO of Topolytics, commented: “Topolytics operates like the best consumer apps – offering an intuitive means by which companies can manage environmental data and generate real-time reports. However, while our software offers a window into that data, we need to take some responsibility for its quality. In the case of sensors, we know that they age and degrade, which can complicate decision-making.

“It begs the question: how can you be sure the data being collected really reflects conditions on the ground? St Andrews’ statistical models, combined with our software, can go some way to ensuring that the environmental data is accurate – promoting our aim of offering insight and confidence.

“Environmental monitoring and sensing is a growing market. More sensing, more monitoring, more resource efficiency are the way things are heading – driven by increasingly demanding regulation, rising costs and a desire for transparency. That creates a real opportunity.”

Mark Begbie, Business Development Director at CENSIS, added: “This project demonstrates the transformative effect sensors can have on society and businesses. The 170 sensor and imaging system-focussed businesses in Scotland contribute £2.6 billion to gross value added and employ some 16,000 people – and their wider impact in enabling other business to operate more intelligently and efficiently is even greater.”  

1.    About Topolytics

Topolytics specialises in managing, visualising and analysing data on commercial waste, emissions and resources.  It works with spreadsheets, sensors and airborne scanners, using mapping to give its customers powerful insights and improved decision making – reducing their costs, increasing efficiencies and making reporting frictionless and fast.


2.    About CalaChem

            CalaChem is a large-scale contract and toll manufacturing organisation with a track          record of producing Agrochemical Actives, Intermediates and Speciality Chemicals.             CalaChem is committed to lean manufacturing, in-house effluent treatment and other   support services. CalaChem’s strength is its people. The highly skilled and motivated workforce are experienced in process development, project delivery,             continuous improvement and successful manufacture of customer projects.


3.    About Air Monitors Ltd.

Based in the Tewkesbury and Dundee, Air Monitors is an independent, privately owned company representing some of the world’s leading environmental monitoring technology manufacturers. Air Monitors supplies the equipment that monitors dust particles and gases in both workplace and ambient air. We offer technical support, maintenance, calibration, operation, analysis and reporting services in addition to the sale or hire of monitoring equipment to the commercial market.

4.    About CENSIS

CENSIS is the Scottish Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems, which aims to bring together commercial innovation and academic research, to drive economic activity in Scotland. Established in April 2013 with an initial £10 million funding, it expects to deliver collaborative R&D projects and assist Scotland’s 170 companies in the industry which, between them, contribute £2.6 billion to the economy. It is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, with additional support from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.


5.    About Innovation Centres

The Innovation Centres, which were launched in 2014 and in the latter part of 2013, sit within the construction industry, oil and gas, stratified medicine, digital health, industrial bio-tech, and sensors and imaging. Each Centre aims to establish bonds between Scotland’s universities and their respective industry sectors, translating the knowledge and expertise into commercially viable products and companies to benefit the country’s economy.

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