2015 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Professor Zhiguo Yuan

May 28, 2015 Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE)

Putting science in sewers.

Professor Yuan’s campaign to “put science in sewers” has fundamentally changed industry’s understanding and practice for sewer corrosion and odour management, generating economic benefit in excess of $400 million.

Before 2003 solutions for the increasingly costly problems of corrosion and odour in sewers were unclear, but Professor Yuan identified a fundamental lack of understanding of in-sewer processes and developed a suite of innovative technologies to revolutionise the science and practice of integrated urban water management for Australian water utilities.

He started with a small research project for the City of Gold Coast to determine why the actual service life of existing assets was significantly less than the planned service life and has since driven much of the applied research undertaken in the field of integrated urban water management over the past decade, in close collaboration with the Australian water industry.

Through extensive partnership and outreach with industry, Professor Yuan has spearheaded significant and beneficial transformations to practice. Independent estimates by Australian water utilities have quantified savings in excess of $400 million from the implementation of his technologies and processes.

Professor Yuan’s training in aeronautical engineering provided him with strong expertise in modeling and control engineering. Professor Yuan leads the world in the development and application of mathematical models for prediction and mitigation of hydrogen sulfide from sewers. The model provides a powerful tool to support the water industry to achieve cost-effective sewer corrosion and odour management. His research has also delivered several innovative technologies for effective sulfide mitigation.

Professor Yuan is also a world leader in the understanding, modeling and mitigation of nitrous oxide and methane emissions from wastewater systems; both are strong greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. His team is the first in the world recognizing the significant contribution of methane emission from sewers to the water utilities’ total carbon footprint, challenging the IPCC accounting guidelines.

Professor Yuan is the founder of three spin-offs including SeweX, Cloevis and Lodomat, which provide modeling and technology services to the water industry not only for sewerage asset management but also for resource recovery from wastewater.

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