With many winter sports, conditions have to be just right. Too many moisture and temperature fluctuations in the ice pose a real risk to the safety of athletes. For engineering company Aquantum, this was a primary concern for the bobsled track in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Sochi is, in fact, a sub-tropical city positioned at the foot of the Caucasus Mountain with the Black Sea to its west. For visitors, this natural setting is a huge draw – offering the best of both worlds in terms of a warm coastal climate during the summer months, and the snowy mountain peaks in the winter.

Regardless of Sochi’s mountainous location, there is no guarantee that snow conditions or temperatures will be ideal for winter sports. In order to achieve and maintain the right conditions for every winter sport in the city, artificial snow and ice have become critical factors for success at the major championships that take place there.

Ensuring a steady flow of clean water

Instrumental in the production of snow and ice, is a steady and reliable flow of clean water. If the water flow stops, there is risk of jeopardizing competitor safety, contest results, and the reputation for the venue. With this in mind, Aquantum turned to Xylem for the development of a suitable system for the production of rapid ice for the bobsled track.

This challenge for the Aquantum team was complex. The bobsled track starts at a height of 836 meters, totaling 1,500 meters in length with 17 curves. Constructed from concrete, the track is then coated in ice that bobsleds will travel down at speeds of approximately 120 km/h (75 mph). A track must have a reliable and rapid supply of ice in order to maintain a smooth running track and protect the safety of its users.

“It was imperative the installation produce ice quickly, with the highest level of reliability available,” said Victor Kamnev, Product Manager for Aquantum. “With all eyes on Sochi, ice production was an incredibly important component – failing was not an option. This is why we chose to work with Xylem, as we believed they understood the application demands and had a comprehensive portfolio of products to meet our needs.”

The production of good quality ice is a multifaceted undertaking requiring significant expertise and knowledge of water quality and temperature. The presence of certain minerals can really affect the finished product, resulting in brittle ice in some instances and a rough surface in others.

A reliable, energy-efficient system

Aquantum and Xylem worked together to identify a highly efficient and reliable system for the track. The Xylem team specified the Lowara GHV series, a fully automatic variable speed booster set to pump a supply of clean water to the system. In order to have the most energy-efficient system the booster is outfitted with a Hydrovar variable speed drive.

The Hydrovar is a pump-mounted variable speed drive suitable up to 22 kilowatts and designed specifically for centrifugal pumps. The Hydrovar can link up to eight pumps allowing communication to each unit via the RS485 interface, reducing cabling complexity for easier installation and enhanced system reliability. In multi-pump systems, the Hydrovar can recognize the failure of any pump or Hydrovar unit and enable the remaining pumps to take over for the failed unit.

One of the most important features of the Xylem system – differentiating it from everything else on the market – was the multi-language display. Having a display in Russian (with the option of 15 other languages), helped make programming and maintenance much faster and intuitive for operators.

Producing pure and sterile water

The booster set ensures that water is delivered at the correct pressure and flow required by the application. It is also equipped with Lowara vertical multistage e-SV pumps that feature one of the best hydraulic efficiencies available. These units are fitted with high-efficiency IE3 motors for reductions in energy consumption.

The e-SV is used for reverse osmosis – the process that desalinizes the well water by pressurizing it with a semi-permeable membrane, thus producing pure and sterile water. It also features a back wash filter to ensure the water entering the freezing process meets water quality standards for the track. The e-SV can deliver head of up to 45 bar with a delivery of up to 160 m3/h.

“It was exciting to be involved in a high-profile project like this that allows us to apply our broad product portfolio and leading industry knowledge to help our customer solve their water challenges,” said Dan Iversen, Market Development Director EMEA at Xylem. “The Xylem team worked closely with our engineering partners to understand their specialized needs, and design a complete solution that saved time, money and ensured the most reliable system.”