The students, from Northumbria University’s Advanced Practice Programme, hail from across India, Africa, Asia and Europe. They have come to Newcastle to study a range of engineering, construction and energy-related subjects at Master’s degree level.
The 23 students gained an insight into how Northumbrian Water creates green energy from human waste – or “Power From Poo” – during a visit that has helped launch the exciting partnership.
The Advanced Practice Programme gives students the opportunity to progress their learning at a higher level and also develop valuable employability skills by working as part of a team to tackle live industry challenges.
Northumbrian Water has previously worked with a student from the programme, whose work helped to create a mobile app for inspecting service reservoirs. The app has the potential to deliver cost savings of around £100,000 a year. That experience led the University and the water company to take the relationship even further, with a range of ventures being explored, and the potential for these to lead on to research projects.
The students visited Northumbrian Water’s green energy plant at Howdon, North Tyneside, to see how sludge left over from wastewater treatment is put through a process called Advanced Anaerobic Digestion (AAD) to create energy. An accompanying Gas To Grid plant then inserts energy created back into the National Grid.
Northumbrian Water was the first, and is still the only water company, to use 100% of its sewage sludge in this way, using the specialist plant at Howdon and at a second site, Bran Sands, on Teesside. The work is a key element of Northumbrian Water’s success in having driven down its carbon emissions from 303,000 tonnes in 2018 to 56,000 tonnes in 2020 as it aims for Net Zero in 2027, as well as generating energy for others to use.
Anne Macdonald, Advanced Practice Manager at Northumbria University, said: ““The opportunity to gain real experience within business environments is one of the main attractions for students to this programme, giving them experience beyond the classroom.
“We are delighted to collaborate with leading organisations like Northumbrian Water to develop the next generation of engineers and are excited to bring fresh ideas and project support from the University to the business community.”
Ken Black, Northumbrian Water’s Optimisation Manager, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for us, as it is for the University and the students.
"We’ve already had very positive experiences with the programme and I am sure this will continue into the future. This is a superb collaboration because it enables us to deliver quick turnaround projects which benefit both organisations and the students in a meaningful and tangible way.
“It was great to welcome the students to Howdon, showcasing to the world’s future industry specialists how Northumbrian Water has been at the forefront of this technology, and how we are supporting the rest of our industry to follow in our footsteps.
“Our sites at Howdon and Bran Sands aren’t just places we treat the region’s waste. They are green energy plants in their own right and that’s a fantastic development that is playing a major role in our aim to achieve Net Zero in 2027.”
Any organisations wishing to get involved in the programme can contact Anne Macdonald, Advanced Practice Manager at email@example.com