15 Nov 2021

Ellen van Voorthuizen, a highly experienced process engineer and consultant with Royal HaskoningDHV for over 14 years, has been appointed to a new role within the business in the UK. From early November 2021, Ellen’s new remit will include a specific focus on helping UK water companies estimate the extent of their wastewater treatment plant emissions and mitigate against them in the journey to Net Zero.

Ellen has an extensive background in research into wastewater treatment plant emissions, and part of this work includes identifying and mitigating the effects of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. The environmental effects of N2O are almost 265 times greater than the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (CO2). And, like CO2, it takes a long time to disintegrate – approximately 114 years. While N2O only accounts for 6% of emissions (IPCC, 2007), this figure is increasing. Ellen has already been successfully working with water companies in the Netherlands to help them research and mitigate against N2O, and chairs the Community of Practice, which includes 17 of the 21 Dutch water authorities.  

Bringing research and mitigation tools together

Ellen explains: “With my technological background, I enjoy participating in projects that enable me to gain an insight into the different options availale to water companies with regards to wastewater treatment, sludge management, energy efficiency and resource recovery. As part of our journey to Net Zero, I am particualrly interested in exploring the possibilities of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, to improve the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment plants, to improve the energy production from sludge digestion, and to recover resources from wastewater.

“From the early start (2008) of the research, I paid attention to both nitrous oxide and methane emissions. This has resulted in a simple risk model to estimate the emission of nitrous oxide and has led to a practical guide to estimate and mitigate the emission of methane.”

Working in collaboration

Ellen will be focusing on identifying sustainable solutions from an envioronmental, technological and a financial perspective. She plans to translate the work she is carrying out in the Netherlands to the UK water companies, with the aim of acclerating the work on N2O and methane. 

Net Zero water services

Royal HaskoningDHV’s Water Sector Director Paul Lavender said: “We are delighted to welcome Ellen to the team in the UK. Last year UK water companies unveiled their ground-breaking plan to deliver net zero water services for customers by 2030. It was the world’s first sector-wide commitment of its kind. This plan is forecast to save the emission of 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by reaching net zero two decades ahead of the UK Government’s target of 2050. Ellen’s background and knowledge of wastewater treatment plant emissions and what can be done to reduce them, will go a long way towards helping UK water companies reach their ambitious commitment.”