Sustaining aqua populations around dams9 September 2022
MSD Animal Health has launched a line of Hyper InfusiO2n™ solutions, designed to optimize the environment around dam facilities and improve attraction to fish ladder entrances. Here, Kasha Cox, global aqua commercial lead, talks to IWP&DC about the new solution and explains how it can help sustain healthy fish populations while maintaining hydropower
Can you provide a description of the Hyper InfusiO2n™ Solutions?
MSD Animal Health is excited to offer a series of modular, scalable fish passage solutions to promote the long-term sustainability of both renewable hydropower as well as the surrounding aquatic species. These holistic, customizable fish passage solutions were developed to provide actionable intelligence to resource managers by monitoring the movement and population structures of wild fishes, optimizing attraction and survival through fish passage facilities, and benchmarking solution performance from both an operational and uplift perspective.
The newest tool in our portfolio of solutions, Hyper Infusi02n™, optimizes the environment for aquatic organisms by infusing dissolved oxygen that is immediately available for respiration. At the most basic level, infusion adds dissolved oxygen to water by leveraging a one-to-one exchange of oxygen for other dissolved gasses. Alternatively, diffusion (the only other commercially available oxygenation technology) adds gaseous oxygen to water which must dissolve before it becomes bioavailable, and often rapidly off gasses before dissolution, especially in turbulent environments such as fish passage facilities. The unique ability to deliver stable, bioavailable oxygen throughout the duration of a turbulent fish ladder opens a world of opportunities for more efficient and improved attraction, passage, and survival of fish moving beyond hydropower facilities.
In addition to our new Hyper InfusiO2n solutions to optimize the environment, our fish passage solutions leverage 30+ years of fish ID and monitoring experience with our Biomark RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, readers, and an extensive infrastructure of in-stream and passage antennas. These monitoring insights are set up for remote access and download to benchmark solution performance, return on investment, and environmental benefit. By seamlessly linking monitoring, optimization, and benchmarking data in digital portal (BioLogic), we provide customers real time, end to end data for enhanced resource management.
Additional technical details for the new Hyper InfusiO2n solutions
Oxygen diffusion approaches have made considerable and impressive advancements, one example is ionized nanobubble technology - described as neutrally buoyant oxygen bubbles that maintain an ionic charge that reduces the probability of coalescence, enabling oxygen bubbles to remain in water for extended periods of time in hopes that eventually oxygen will become dissolved. Oxygen infusion is distinguished by the fact that oxygen enters water is a dissolved state that is immediately available for fish respiration. Hyper InfusiO2n solutions are distinguished by the fact that the introduction of dissolved oxygen is offset by the extraction of other dissolved gasses, resulting in little or no change in total gas pressure.
Our Hyper InfusiO2n solution achieves this by creating a strong concentration gradient between oxygen in a gaseous phase and nitrogen and other trace gasses in an aqueous dissolved state. Similar to fish respiration and dynamic equilibrium between atmospheric and dissolved gasses in any body of water, the differential in concentrations forces gas exchange until an equilibrium is achieved. The benefit of this technology is that oxygen cannot pass into solution without the simultaneous transit of nitrogen or other trace gasses.
While this technology has corollaries with industrial approaches, it was developed specifically to support aquatic life, requiring grassroots development of gas-exchange media and hardened materials capable of withstanding extended submersion in freshwater and saltwater environments.
What kind of testing has been carried out?
Operational evaluations, such as our ability to achieve dissolved oxygen concentrations of 442% without significantly altering total gas pressure, have been completed across our portfolio of solutions. Additionally, lab-based evaluations demonstrate that fish are significantly attracted to and choose areas of elevated dissolved oxygen. Given the infused oxygen is far more stable than diffused, this attraction response in fish makes our Hyper InfusiO2n solution ideal for passage. Using oxygen, rather than attraction flow, optimizes not only fish passage, but also the return on mitigation investment for hydropower operators.
Long-term studies of key aquatic organisms are currently underway to assess outcomes accompanying extended exposure to elevated oxygen concentrations under normo-baric conditions.
Has the solution been tested at a dam project?
We installed an enhanced oxygen solution at a dam approximately four years ago to improve fish attraction and passage. Independent third-party evaluation documented a 1200% increase in total fish passage and a ten-fold reduction in mortality for a key species. To date the Hyper InfusiO2n solution has exceeded design specifications by four-fold and has operated with zero maintenance because of COVID, which precluded scheduled maintenance. While we have demonstrated improved fish attraction, passage, and survival we have also identified potential improvements to electrical generation capacity. Briefly, we have discovered that flow rates through ladders can be decreased, and attraction flow can be halted when our Hyper Infusi02n solutions are installed – enhanced oxygen has proven to be a better attractant than attraction flow. With further documentation and collaboration from stakeholders we are optimistic that attraction flow can be rerouted to power generation.
Work is underway to complete an additional three installations at hydropower facilities in 2022 and 2023. The installation of these fish passage solutions encompasses not only an approach using our new Hyper InfusiO2n solution, but a series of other seamlessly integrated tools to provide end to end insights. Custom fish passage antennas facilitate fish monitoring through the passage facility, which is relayed remotely and in real time to cloud portal. Those data, along with data from environmental sensors, can then be used to optimize the performance of infused oxygen delivery to provide the greatest return on investment (e.g., oxygen injection occurring during peak fish migration or dissolved oxygen crashes). Collection of fish, environmental, and operational data in one seamlessly integrated portal then allows clients and customers to benchmark the performance of their solution and adapt to the needs of their environment.
As we are all aware, fish passage and the maintenance of biodiversity of aquatic life at hydropower facilities has emerged as a challenge to existing operations and expansion. The goal of developing these integrated solutions is to support both the sustainability of hydropower and the aquatic resources inhabiting those rivers.
Are you partnering with hydro companies?
We have established relationships with Federal and private hydropower organizations. Initially, these collaborations focused on targeted “series zero” tests of our portfolio of fish passage solutions; they have advanced to purchase agreements for this technology. Often this decision is driven by the lower cost-point of Hyper InfusiO2n solutions relative to replacing existing fish passage technology, along with the integrated portfolio of products delivering real time, actionable data on both environmental benefit and operational parameters. These collaborations have been tremendously positive and continue to drive forward-looking conversations about the sustainability of hydropower and aquatic resources.
What kind of fish passage facilities is it suitable for? Is it more suited to smaller projects, or can it be used at large dam facilities?
We designed our fish passage solutions in a “modular” fashion, enabling beneficial installation at facilities of literally any scale. Both the monitoring tools as well as our Hyper InfusiO2n equipment is available in a series of variable sizes, configurations, and materials in order to meet a broad variety of customer needs. We continue to work with visionaries in fish passage ranging from companies developing modular pre-cast fishways to lock-based and elevator solutions ranging in passage heights from meters to over a hundred meters. The deployment of our fish passage solutions can be targeted to monitor fish movement and population metrics, improve attraction, and/or facilitate fish passage.
What countries are the solutions available in? Is it more suited to conditions in certain countries?
Our integrated fish passage solutions are currently available in North America and Europe, although we plan to support further global expansion in 2023. Monitoring and data capture tools are available globally (and have been for over a decade), allowing us to leverage an extensive existing network of in-stream PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag detection systems to provide additional value with system upgrades and installations. Unlike competing technologies, our new Hyper InfusiO2n solutions maintain performance across seawater, brackish, and freshwater environments, and oxygen transfer efficiency does not decrease within the range of atmospheric pressures and temperatures accompanying the environments typically inhabited by aquatic life. In combination with industry leading RFID monitoring platforms, we offer a range of remote communication offerings further broadens our ability to deliver holistic data across a variety of harsh environmental conditions and hard to access sites.
Are there any other developments in the pipeline that can improve fish survival at hydropower and dam facilities?
Generally, our focus at this point is value-engineering – building more cost-effective and efficient solutions using materials with an increasingly diminished environmental footprint. We also intend to leverage the extensive data collected on fish movement, environmental conditions, and operational performance to better understand how to optimize the efficiency and uplift from our fish passage solutions under a range of conditions.
What costs are involved?
Cost relates to desired outcomes and return on investment. As described above, our solutions come in a variety of modular, customizable, and scalable features all targeted to the needs of a site. For example, a facility may require one to many infusers depending on flow rates and application as a fish attractant and/or passage enhancement, and one to many RFID antennas available in a variety of configurations (e.g., vertical slot, in-stream, custom passage design, etc.) depending on the size and design of the site. Equipment requirements may include a source of relatively pure oxygen – preferably 94% or greater, head pressure (pumps or dynamic head), a power source, and remote communication. Thus, cost is a site-specific question based on size, design, flow rates, availability of dynamic head-pressure, and oxygen availability.