Back in the day, environmental engineers and landfill operators had to create their own spreadsheets to track mountains of data, then try and figure out what all that data meant, a tedious process with limited functionality. But that’s changing, and SCSeTools® is at the forefront of the evolution. This powerful yet user-friendly digital platform automates data management; harnesses an ever-growing volume, type, and complexity of information; and expands on what solid waste professionals can do with that information.
Created by landfill practitioners, for landfill practitioners, SCSeTools collects, monitors, analyzes, and manages data on key landfill operations and assists in reporting. It’s leveraged by SCS staff and its clients nationwide to help facilitate sound operational and engineering decisions while saving time, labor, and money. Because operators get information in near-real time, they can act quickly and proactively should red flags spring up in their tightly regulated world.
The platform includes three modules: SCS DataServices®; SCS Groundwater™; SCS Leachate™; and the newest feature—SCS MobileTools®. Collectively these customizable toolsets have the flexibility to capture the big picture of a site’s overall health or zero in on what’s happening at a single gas wellhead, leachate collection sump, or other location. The modules’ design supports the smallest and largest sites and serves operators managing one, 10, or even hundreds of facilities.
From the Big Picture to the Fine Details
SCS DataServices is the flagship product and the one that SCS engineer Sol Sim uses most. This module captures and utilizes landfill gas facility monitoring and management data. It’s also designed to serve as a compliance reporting tool.
Sim likes to tap into the app to look through different lenses, depending on what he needs to see and understand.
“You can use SCS DataServices to get a broad overview of what is happening, but you can also drill down to see where you need to focus to ensure you are spending time and resources efficiently,” he says.
Being able to dissect large volumes of data quickly, then key into the finer details as needed has made his job easier. And he can work smarter and faster.
“Without this tool, it’s a bit of a needle in a haystack. But now, we can easily visualize and pick out relevant, near real-time data to assess performance. And when there are deficiencies, we can make adjustments promptly—maybe upgrade a wellhead or upgrade laterals to optimize gas production,” he says.
Connecting the Dots in a Visual Format
The GIS mapping function, a component of DataServices, has been one of Sim’s go-to tools. It provides data points for individual locations within a landfill system and helps connect the dots in a visual format.
“You have point references and can spatially display a lot of data at once so, unlike with a spreadsheet format, you can see and process where a well is in relation to others,” he says.
Custom mapping captures any parameter, whether data points around gas flow, header vacuum or gas quality. Ranges are set to identify trends and, ultimately, provide information to make more informed decisions.
This ability to spot trends or patterns is integrated into features beyond mapping. A built-in algorithm helps determine if a client’s operations are trending in the right direction, and that determination can be made as patterns unfold, which helps field staff stay on top of the curve.
“If changes occur slowly, it typically takes time to notice, but if you look at six months or more of data at a time, you see that 1 percent change in temperature or flow, for example, that has crept up incrementally. You have one visual snapshot that captures a lot of data fast. So, if there are issues, you can get to the route quickly and make adjustments practically in real-time,” Sim says.
The DataServices module has served well as a troubleshooting tool. Sim illustrates with a real-life scenario: a client whose landfill gas-to-energy project was grossly underperforming.
“They had data but no way to review it efficiently to try and understand what was happening. They were ready to bring in a new operator. We were able to come in; upload their data into our system; identify the problem; and make easy, relatively inexpensive upgrades that increased their gas extraction by close to 15 percent.”
Besides helping to realize direct dollar benefits, the tool can compute and outline deficiencies from a regulatory standpoint.
“Our client had outstanding past exceedances that had not been remedied properly. We helped them get back into compliance and mitigate potential future issues that could have resulted in fines,” Sim says.
When SCSeTools was created, the primary goals were to standardize data acquisition and ensure that the data was secure. It was used internally at first, at a few landfills. Clients began asking for it, and now the toolsets are leveraged at over 650 locations across the country, both by SCS and clients who operate their sites.
Ensuring Data Integrity – Simplifying Processes
It continues to evolve, with one of the early advances being encryption of data collected in the field, which means that it can’t be modified when transmitted to the app.
Before, there could be errors if a file was interrupted or data mishandled as it moved along the chain of custody, explains Oliver Early, the product manager of SCSeTools.
“And now we have taken the capabilities even further,” says Brooks Ballentine, SCS director of Software Development.
“Today, we are enhancing MobileTools so field technicians can enter and transmit data directly from their mobile device to SCSeTools. This not only ensures data integrity but simplifies the process,” he says.
Data integrity and ease were the front and center focuses while designing each feature and function. Another example of this is that the software enables gas measuring instruments to be configured to align with well configurations.
“Every gas well has a unique configuration, and they are often reconfigured. Because we can synchronize the configurations from eTools to each technician’s instrument, we end up with more accurate, consistent readings, when, before, that was impossible,” Early says.
Staying On Top of Timelines
Operators must stay on their game to keep up with regulated monitoring timelines, whether involving activity at wells, monitoring probes, or flares. Some sites have hundreds or even thousands of data points with individual data timelines and, what’s more, those timelines can change. DataServices, in particular, works to simplify the detail-heavy process. It supports operators in better managing prescribed monitoring events in a couple of ways: by enabling them to view data for a specific monitoring period and by allowing them to set events to align with mandated periods.
So, if systems were out of compliance and now have to be monitored more often, the frequency can be set accordingly.
In addition to DataServices, with its robust capabilities around managing landfill gas systems data, the SCSeTools suite features two more modules: the leachate and groundwater modules. These tools are designed to support processes established to ensure regulatory compliance, optimize operational efficiency, and save costs.
SCS Leachate provides relevant information to help determine the most efficient and economical leachate disposal methods. The app manages the input, analysis, review, and export of information such as leachate origin, volume of fluids, and sample lab results for specific collection points.
The module charts and graphs leachate data by disposal method and site or multiple sites. Then, it can determine trends in leachate disposal totals using established parameters associated with leachate management.
“Once all this data is gathered and logged, users can run reports and come up with disposal costs based on data provided by clients. We can track and trend how much operators are currently spending on leachate disposal to help them optimize liquid management and plan budgets for the next year,” Ballentine says.
SCS Groundwater tracks constituents to help manage water quality and to mitigate or remediate issues. It was developed to enhance operational efficiencies while also providing a means to validate that reporting requirements are being met.
Users can set up and track monitoring plans consisting of sampling points and required analyses at each point. They can track the datasets of constituents, as well as constituents within each dataset that they are required to monitor. These constituents can be tracked over time to determine if seepages are controlled and follow progress if adjustments are required.
Once the data is uploaded into SCS Groundwater, the app checks it against the monitoring plan to verify that all work is complete. “This is a key feature because the number of possible methods, and associated analytes, is large, and ensuring that the required testing project has been completed correctly is critical,” Ballentine says.
“We are not done”: Expanding Capabilities
SCSeTools, with its three modules and mobile app, has advanced over time to keep pace with operators’ needs in an ever-changing, complex industry, and Sim says, “We are not done. We continue to leverage new technologies and to add features and functions so that we can make the best, most cost-effective decisions possible on behalf of our clients.”