Counting every drop

Climate challenges, such as increased heavy rains and drought, need to be addressed in future business operations. As part of her thesis program, Tove Engvall analyzed how collecting rainwater can help optimize production processes.

Counting every drop

The origin of the thesis project was a workshop Sandvik participated in with the local municipality, focusing on how to adapt to future climate threats and challenges with high levels of rain and periods of drought. A degree project was launched and Tove Engvall, an engineering graduate at the Uppsala University in Sweden, was selected for the project.

Tove Engvall

“The thesis of my project was to investigate opportunities for collecting rainwater from roof surfaces in the Sandvik industrial area in Sandviken, Sweden,” she says, “by examining storage systems and locations that would be suitable for rainwater harvesting. Temperature changes in the stored rainwater were also considered to estimate how rainwater could be used for cooling as a substitute to municipal water in the cooling system.”

An environmentally sound option

The water used in the steel cooling process doesn’t have to be as clean as municipal water, Engvall explains, and in fact using municipal water is a waste of energy; rainwater is a more environmentally sound option.

370,000 cubic meters or rainwater can be collected from roof surfaces

“The conclusion from my project is that Sandvik has opportunities for collecting, storing and using rainwater in the cooling system, on both a small and a big scale,” Engvall says. “For example, approximately 370,000 cubic meters of rainwater can be collected from roof surfaces at the site during a year with a lot of precipitation. Taking local conditions into account, underground storage would be advisable to store rainwater. In line with climate changes, rainwater harvesting will probably be a helpful alternative for reducing risks regarding flooding and drought at the site in the future. At the same time, the use of resources is reduced and the company becomes more sustainable.”

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Endless possibilites

“Tove’s work has given us answers to several questions,” says Susanne Lindqvist, Sandvik Materials Technology energy engineer and Engvall’s supervisor. “We don’t have to review the legislation since no permit is needed for harvesting rainwater. She has also figured out how to collect the rainwater, where on the facility grounds it can be stored, how much it would cost, and for which processes it’s suitable to use it. These results can also be used at other Sandvik facilities around the world. Even if legislation differs from country to country, the method for harvesting rainwater is applicable.”

For Engvall, the work with the degree project brought her close to home. The newly graduated engineer grew up in Gävle some 20 minutes from Sandviken, where Sandvik was founded. The metal processing industry has always loomed large in her life. Engvall says she was inspired by her father, an engineer, and her grandfather, who worked at Sandvik. But, her main inspiration is the concept of “the female engineer” – someone with cutting-edge skills who strives to create a better world.

If you are thinking about studying engineering, my advice to you is to go for it.

“If you’re thinking about studying engineering, my advice to you is to go for it,” says Engvall. “The possibilities are endless. You have the opportunity to work in all kinds of different industries. There are many companies that want young female engineers at the moment – often with an expertise in sustainability. Being young, female and interested in water engineering has put me in a very beneficial position.”

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Name: Tove Engvall
Age: 23
Title: Master of Science in Engineering. Specialization: Environmental and Water Engineering. Uppsala University
Future: Would like to be a key person in the shift toward a more sustainable world.

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