8 A WET NEWS AND WWT SUPPLEMENT
‘We don’t want FOG in drains at all’
Ian Bernard, the technical manager of British Water, tells Claire Smith how he hopes the new FOG forum can make a difference – for the water companies and wider industry
s someone who began his career in the water industry as a research chemist, Ian Bernard is only too aware of the need for innovation. However, he believes some areas of the water industry are ‘risk averse’ – and not doing enough to encourage long-term research projects.
As technical manager of the industry body British Water it is his mission to challenge that – whether by lobbying the Government, liaising with utility companies or setting up cross industry consultations – such as the new FOG forum which deals with the persistently sticky problem of Fats Oils and Grease.
“We are bringing people together to find a consensus approach. We are talking to each other to find the solution – we don’t want FOG in the drains at all.”
Not only will the new FOG forum bring together experts from the water industry, it will also bring in big catering companies, food manufacturers, manufacturers of degreasing machines and bio energy experts – who may be able to find ways of putting waste FOG to good use.
During the course of his career Ian Bernard has had plenty of experience of working with people from different sectors.
Originally a research chemist, Ian Bernard began his career in the laboratories at Thames Water – becoming a programme manager and contract manager as the R&D sector expanded. In the early 1990s he was seconded to the UK Water Industry Research body before leaving to found his own consultancy Effective Water Solutions.
He went on to lecture in Water Technology at Birmingham City University – and worked with the European Research Development Fund – helping former car industry companies move into green technologies.
In 2005 he moved to Oxford University, where he managed a Euro Environ Eureka programme designed to accelerate the development of green technology.
So it was with a thorough grounding in the water industry and the world of environmental research funding that he moved to become technical manager of British Water in 2009. British Water is a trade association representing UK companies in the water supply chain.
“We get involved in negotiating or contributing when they are writing new regulations. We listen to our members’ concerns
and needs and then we act as a broker and go to the environment agencies on their behalf.” The organisation is organised into three forums. The UK water forum negotiates between water companies and the 27 utilities companies, or water suppliers.
The international forum runs trade missions, technology transfer programmes and liaises with investors and researchers overseas. The third sector, the technical forum is Ian Bernard’s domain.
“We support the other forums – mostly on the investment front, because that is something we need a lot of in the UK.”
“The water utilities are not doing enough research and development and not doing enough innovation.”
British Water has been campaigning to change Ofwat restrictions on asset management – which effectively limit water industry research programmes to five years.
It has also lobbied for more government support – from bodies such as the Technology Strategy Board – which currently does not fund water research.
But the technical forum also takes a hands on approach to problem solving – with its Sustainable Drainage Solutions forum, known as SUDS and the new FOG forum.
“Too often molten fat ends up going down the drain – and when it hits a cold part of a sewer it solidifies and turns into Fog Compound. “Fog C is one of the most common causes of blocked sewers. Sometimes you have to take it out with diggers – it can get as big as two or three metres wide.”
The new forum is chaired by Martin Fairley, director of ACO Technologies, currently researching FOG at Cranfield University. Its aims are to reduce the build-up of FOG Compound, to educate consumers, promote best practice in the catering industry and to influence any future legislation.
For the water industry FOG is a serious problem, but it can also create problems for large catering companies.
Working together: according to Ian Bernard, the FOG forum is unique as it brings together people from the whole value chain
“In theory every large kitchen should have some sort of a grease collector that stops it from going down the sewer.
“But kitchens are often short of space – or sometimes the grease separator doesn’t work properly.”
Isolated kitchens, such as those in motorway service stations often have their own small sewage plants – which can become seriously clogged by FOG.
So far the new forum has 35 members, but 100 organisations, including McDonald’s have shown an interest. “We have got people from the whole value chain which is quite unique.”
The FOG forum is still hoping to bring in some experts in anaerobic digestion who can talk to interested bodies about how to capture FOG and reuse it as fuel or energy.
“We need a champion for a working group on the disposal and reuse of FOG.”
The FOG forum has its own website www. bwfog.co.uk
and will be participating in the IWEX conference to explain its mission to others in the industry. Although it is early days, Ian Bernard believes that the Fog Forum has a good chance of making a real difference.
“It is quite unique because it brings together people from the whole value chain. It is the industry coming together to take on a problem.”
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