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Sweating the Assets

Since the Logan Water Alliance (LWA) was formed, its unique, planning-led approach has been crucial in achieving significant capital cost savings across multiple water infrastructure projects. This approach allows for the potential to create more value during the early stages of projects by challenging assumptions and identifying opportunities to make existing assets work harder. One of the largest water infrastructure delivery programs of its type in Australia, the LWA was established by Logan City Council in 2009. Located in a major growth corridor in south east Queensland between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Logan’s population is anticipated to increase 50 percent by 2031. With insufficient in-house capacity to handle the subsequent growth in water demand, Council created a “planning-led alliance,” a unique program delivery vehicle that could plan, design, and construct cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable water infrastructure to meet the anticipated growth in water demand throughout the city.

“Traditional approaches to infrastructure planning and delivery were not going to work in this environment,” said Logan City Council Water Business Manager Darryl Ross. “We needed a team that offered us the best available industry expertise in water and wastewater planning, design, and construction and thought of themselves as part of Logan City Council’s water business.”

A public and private sector enterprise, the LWA comprises Logan City Council, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and engineering services providers Tenix and Cardno. At its peak, the Alliance employed 110 people in various roles to develop and deliver the program, including a range of subcontractors providing construction expertise and specialist services. Parsons Brinckerhoff’s responsibilities include planning management, modeling, detailed design and design management, environmental management, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and electrical design, structural design, geotechnical investigations, and systems auditing.

So far, the multi-year program has completed 45 capital works projects at a value of approximately US $200 million. Projects include new and improved water and wastewater pipelines in urban and rural communities, pump stations, reservoirs, and wastewater treatment plant upgrades.

Unlocking Value during Initial Planning

Representing Parsons Brinckerhoff at the 7th Annual New South Wales Water Industry Operations Conference earlier this year, the LWA Design Manager Anthony Domanti said the Alliance’s planning-led approach enabled the team to make decisions that directly influence the scope and delivery of the Alliance’s annual capital works program, therefore unlocking value early on in the project, when the potential for value creation is at its greatest.

“This is the time when the cost of making changes to project parameters, such as location, scope, and timeframe, is relatively small, while the ability to innovate and consider alternative approaches to infrastructure challenges is at its greatest,” said Mr. Domanti.

An important part of this innovation process is assessing the capacity of existing infrastructure to identify any spare capacity, and develop opportunities to unlock this spare capacity. Building major pieces of infrastructure from scratch is often the most expensive approach, and rarely the only option.  utilising spare capacity through “sweating the assets,” existing infrastructure can often be used to meet the client’s objectives, while creating substantial capital cost and time savings.

Alfred Street Pump Station to Loganholme Wastewater Treatment Plant Rising Main Project

One example of where the LWA maximised the use of existing infrastructure was on the Alfred Street Pump Station to Loganholme Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Rising Main project. This project featured an upgrade of the Loganholme catchment’s wastewater conveyance system, including the Loganholme WWTP, where the inlet works were unable to meet even the current demand. Previous planning identified a US $132 million upgrade solution, which involved duplicating the existing conveyance system and constructing a new 30-meter deep wastewater lift pump station at Loganholme WWTP.

In contrast, the LWA’s solution recommended modifying the existing wet-weather bypass pump station to become the duty pump station, increasing its capacity to help meet the increase in demand. A three-pump submersible type station with an 8.5-meter diameter and an 18-meter deep wet well, the bypass pump station was originally designed to deliver 1,300 liters per second (L/s). This was redesigned using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modelling, to reliably achieve the necessary 2,000 L/s and to eliminate existing problems associated with the pump suction conditions. The modified bypass pump station could support the existing 2,000 L/s capacity of the original operational Alfred Street pump station, so that together the pump stations could meet the long-term growth in demand.  

The LWA also developed a new approach to upgrading the rising main between the Alfred Street pump station and Loganholme WWTP. Previous plans recommended augmenting the existing four-kilometer rising main, which would have required construction of a US $30 to $40 million double lift pump station at the Loganholme WWTP. The LWA’s solution proposed an entirely new alignment for a seven-kilometer shallow rising main. This innovative design supported the two existing pump stations in meeting the Logan North catchment’s wastewater requirements, without the need for new infrastructure at the Loganholme WWTP.

These innovative examples of sweating the assets, in this case the wet-weather bypass pump station and the original Alfred Street pump station, enabled the LWA to reduce total capital costs by approximately US $83 million, a 63-percent cost saving solution for the Logan City Council.

Conclusion

The value for money initiatives generated by the LWA demonstrate the strategic outcomes that can be achieved for clients, as noted by Logan City Council Water Business Manager, Daryl Ross.

“On several occasions, the solutions [recommended by LWA] have been radically different to those that were being recommended before the Alliance was formed,” said Mr. Ross. “However, in every case, the Alliance’s solutions have offered greater value for money in terms of capital cost, operating costs, environmental impact, and social impact. These examples have demonstrated the value added through the planning-led approach where upstream and downstream perspectives can be considered in the development of the infrastructure options at a master planning level.”

In 2012, the Alliance completed an initial three-year contract. Based on the successful delivery of the capital works program, in early 2012 it received a one-year extension, and in early 2013 its contract was further extended to mid-August 2014.

The LWA’s success has been recognised by multiple awards, including:

  • Parsons Brinckerhoff’s 2012 Project of the Year Award - Category B ($5 million to $20 million),
  • 2012 Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia Excellence Award Water Projects ($1 million- $5 million);
  • 2012 Engineers Australia Queensland Division Excellence Award for Reports, Procedures and Systems; and
  • 2011 Australian Water Association Queensland Infrastructure Project Innovation Award.

 

Image Header Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff


Geographies: Australia & New Zealand
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