Papa pump: zero energy water pumps

Water pumping is generally an energy intensive and expensive process, accounting for much of the carbon footprint of the water industry. But pump specialist PAPA Pump has developed a range of zero-energy water pumps that can replace electric and diesel units in both small and large applications.

The sustainability and cost benefits of zero-energy water-powered pumps are potentially substantial, with pumping water for human use now accounting for 20% of electricity usage globally and 30% of OECD municipal water bills. 

The pump-activated pressure amplifier pump is patented technology, but revives principles first established by the Montgolfier brothers in France at the end of the 18th century. PAPA designs pumps from small units for replacing electric or diesel pumps used by councils in floods, to massive units for water firms.

There are just two moving parts in the PAPA pump, which sits below ground. Within the pump casing, an oscillating donut-shaped Venturi valve converts high-volume low-pressure flow into pulses of high pressure with low volume. This enters a delivery pipe, and a non-return valve prevents backflow. The system has a high tolerance to debris and acid waters, and can operate all day, every day with minimal maintenance.

Applications include pumping for sustainable water storage in arid and remote regions and communities. When heavy rains fall in upstream areas, PAPA products automatically pump water long distances to central storage areas, saving a resource that would otherwise be wasted. This cuts mains water consumption and with it the heavy energy costs of production and transportation.

Other uses include irrigation, water recycling, aeration in water treatment, and removing polluted mine waters. Passive resilient pumping systems for emergency nuclear power station cooling is also a possibility.

The large-scale Venturo pump can move up to 30 million litres per day, and possibly as much as 100 million litres per day. It has received interest for a range of applications, from managing extreme flooding to pumped hydropower installations.

The Cornwall-based firm was founded in 1997 and has won awards from the Technology Strategy Board for its Venturo pump. It has also won DEFRA funding for developing floodwater management systems.

More than 700 PAPA Pump systems operate worldwide. The firm aims to supply the Venturo pump to water firms already trialling its systems in 2013/14, moving to exports in 2014/15. 

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