Interview with Jan Peters: Turning dredgers into sustainable machines

In case you missed it, Dredging Today would like to remind you that we conducted an interesting interview with Jan Peters, Managing Director of Alia Instruments, earlier this year.

Alia Instruments

Finding a sustainable solution has never been an easy task, especially in the dredging industry. Also, the environmental impact of dredging activities has been a point of discussion for a long period now.

Nowadays, more emphasis is put on sustainability by different stakeholders in answer to the climate change effects like pollution, shortage of resources, stress on ecosystems, etc.

Jan Peters

One of the companies focused on finding sustainable solutions for dredging industry is Alia Instruments – a producer of process control equipment. The Alia Density Meters (ADMs) are used for the continuous density control of different slurries in many applications.

For many years, there was no option available other than using gamma radiation to measure these slurries from outside the pipe. With the inception of Alia Instruments, customers now have a sustainable alternative to control and optimize their processes.

Regarding this, and many other related topics, we caught up with Mr. Peters to find out more about a sustainable impact of the Alia Density Meter, a non-nuclear density meter to provide accurate density measurements, especially of abrasive slurries for applications such as dredging and mining.

DT: As an introduction to some of our readers who are not familiar with your company, what can you tell us about your business, the beginnings and where is Alia Instruments today?

Jan Peters: In 2012, I visited some trailing suction hopper dredgers and saw the problems on board with nuclear density meters. And when visiting the offices of the companies, I heard about the challenging situation with licenses and training of specialized personnel.

That was a trigger for me – we have to think of something to do it in another way, or in Latin language: Alia.

So we started to look into the patents to see what has already been done as alternatives, and we decided to do something different and started to work with the second law of Newton as a unique method for measuring slurry densities.

Newton’s second law of motion F = m x a, which relates the force F exerted onto the slurry to its acceleration via the mass m, is used to determine the mass of the slurry.

Alia photo

The slurry volume is a known factor within the density meter. This means that the measured slurry density is nearly immediate and accurate, regardless of pipe diameter or slurry composition.

Choosing this unique method based on proven physics proved to be a very successful decision, because now we have a very well performing yet very simple instrument, that can measure slurry densities in an accurate and reliable way.

DT: Overall, 2020 and 2021 were challenging around the globe in many ways, how did your company sail through that period?

Jan Peters: In 2020, when we realized that we could not visit our clients anymore as much as we wanted, and when many of the mining companies were closing down and not receiving guests anymore, we focussed on the online support functions in our instrument.

This made it possible for us to support our clients remotely via the internet. And because of the simple installation we could continue selling our instrument without being able to visit the clients, giving them support online.

Nevertheless, we feel the need for making visits and we hope that soon we will be able to join our clients on their vessels and at the plants around the world again. Although digital meetings are very handy, nothing beats personal contact and a site visit.

One highlight was November 2021 when we exhibited at Europort 2021 and were happy to meet many clients. Today, we are rapidly growing in dredging market where we started, but also in mining and other industries.

DT: Over the years, Alia has added a lot of innovative equipment to the dredging industry. What is currently in the pipeline or what are you and your team currently working on?

Jan Peters: Our biggest USP is that we provide a non-nuclear density meter, and we expect that industries will soon abandon using radioactive sources and use more sustainable alternatives.

Alia photo

Besides being non-nuclear, which was the start for our journey at Alia Instruments, one of the big advantages with our ADM is that the density meter is very easy to install and no difficult calibration is necessary. Our unique feature, we can pre-calibrate the instrument in the factory, makes it easy to install and maintain in the field.

Of course, we continuously work on improving our software to make density measurements even more reliable and accurate under all challenging working conditions.

Because the offices of Alia Instruments are located at the flagship innovation campus Kennispark, right next door to the university campus we have access to state of the art research and allow us to collaborate with students and professors, as well as fellow tech-entrepreneurs.

DT: Do you believe that dredging industry can make a difference in improving the environment’s quality, and what is your opinion on this?

Jan Peters: I am convinced that this it is very important. I am happy to see that there are many initiatives in dredging that are focused on sustainability.

Alia photo

In general, our opinion is that dredging production optimization is one of the most important things that a dredging company can work on.

A more efficient production will save a lot of fuel, and thus money and the environment. Also the shift in the dredging industry to use more electric dredgers fits perfectly with the use of better instrumentation.

Using an Alia Instruments ADM density meter turns a dredger into a sustainable and highly productive machine.

DT: Sustainability now comes in many forms, and as a producer of dredging equipment, you have knowledge, data and expertise to make a positive difference. What are your priorities when it comes to creating sustainable dredging solutions?

Jan Peters: Alia Instruments ADM non-nuclear density meter and companies mission statement are completely in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Our non-nuclear density meters avoid the need of radioactive materials. They can be used by all dredging companies – there is no permit or special training needed – so they can make a huge contribution to better dredging performance.

We will continue to build big ADM’s for the bigger vessels like the ADM 650 S that we started in 2021.

In my experience the most important information for a dredge operator is the cross needle meter, and to provide the necessary information a good density meter is needed.

Alia photo

We are committed to deliver the best production monitoring solution. Investing in good production monitoring equipment, which includes our density meter, can be earned back very quickly by the improved performance of the dredger.