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4 Ways To Create A More Energy Efficient Wastewater Treatment Plant

4 Ways To Create A More Energy Efficient Wastewater Treatment Plant

Achieving a more energy efficient wastewater treatment plant has never been so important.shutterstock_108831965

Issues around energy consumption are of growing importance in the context of higher energy and production costs, emissions and a changing climate. Energy for aeration comprises a significant portion (60% average) of the operating costs of a wastewater treatment plant. According to the United Nations, globally it is estimated that implementing energy efficiency measures would account for more than 65% of energy-related emissions savings up to 2030. The water industry is one of the largest industrial users of energy with an estimated 2% of total global electricity consumption used for the aeration of wastewater. It is therefore in the best interest of the environment and the economics of wastewater treatment plants, for operators to find efficiencies in energy use.

1. Existing Process Performance
Evaluate energy consumption and efficiency through and on-site survey to identify operational needs, maintenance and deficient equipment. Use energy consumption information to understand usage patterns and evaluate how energy efficiencies could be made. Implement audit recommendations through operational changes.

2. Operational Changes
Facilities should regularly evaluate the condition, performance and remaining useful life of process equipment. Aging equipment is more inefficient, can be costly to repair, and typically requires more energy than newer models. Given that the process that consumes that largest amount of energy in a wastewater treatment plant is the aeration step, this should be a starting point for efficiencies. OxyMem, a complete secondary treatment solution, would reduce energy costs by a minimum of four times and reduce sludge production by 50%.

3. Converting wastewater into renewable energy
Converting wastewater into renewable energy with the help of anaerobic digesters can help to increase energy efficiency. An anaerobic digester produces methane that can be then utilised in a system to supply energy to the facility at significantly lower costs. The overall cuts on energy costs can enable the facility to become more self-sufficient.

4. Staff Buy In
Educating treatment system operators in the relationship between energy efficiency and facility operations is key to meeting energy targets and finding new opportunities for efficiency. Engaging operators in the process by asking for input results in efficiency measures being suggested and embraced. After all, throughout all stages in the facility, it’s the staff that are dealing with the processes every day and this is invaluable insight.

We would love to hear of other tips that can create a more efficient wastewater treatment plant. What efficiencies have you made in your facility?

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Nitrous Oxide, Not So Funny After All   Nitrous oxide emissions from wastewater treatment plants are 265 times more harmful to our environment than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas which is emitted as an undesired bioproduct during the biological treatment of wastewater,  it is estimated to be responsible for six per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it has a warming potential 265 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is also one of the main contributors to depleting the ozone layer. The gas is created during the nitrification and denitrification phase due to nitrogen present in urea, ammonia, and proteins found in municipal wastewater. Despite these concerns, there is some reason for optimism because nitrous oxide has a much shorter lifespan of only 114 years compared to carbon dioxide, which can survive hundreds of years in the atmosphere. Therefore, making changes to reduce N2O emission can have a profound effect on the environment in a much shorter time frame. A report from 2019 showed that 6% of nitrous oxide emissions in the United States come from wastewater treatment. Given this prevalence, reducing, and mitigating process emissions from N2O will be paramount for the water industry over the coming decade. Currently the water industry is working towards monitoring nitrous oxide on treatment plants and considering how best to reduce emissions through optimization or upgrading of treatment processes. Could OxyMem be the answer? Investing in technologies which can limit emission and make plant activities more sustainable will be key. To date there has been significant interest in carbon emissions within the sector, but momentum is growing as interest shifts towards targeting harmful nitrous oxide and lesser-known greenhouse gases.  Denmark  In 2018 the Danish EPA launched a funding scheme for Danish utility companies dedicated to measurements of and mitigation actions towards nitrous oxide emissions. In the period from 2018 to 2020, nine Danish utilities have measured and registered nitrous oxide emissions from nine different wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) under the EPA funding scheme OxyMem have supported Vandcenter Syd (VCS) Denmark, who partnered with Aarhus Vand Denmark, to demonstrate the benefits of MABR technology at the Ejby Mølle WWRF. Work started in the summer of 2018. 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United Kingdom -2030 Net Zero Goals Given the potential for the sector, further studies on N2O and the added benefits of MABR are to be formally carried out under a recent initiative by Anglian Water. OxyMem technology was chosen to demonstrate how MABR might help the UK achieve 2030 emissions goals. Plant design is already underway. The project will be funded through an Innovation Fund made available by Ofwat Anglian Water’s Triple Carbon Reduction solution, delivered in partnership with OxyMem, Element Energy Ltd, Jacobs, Cranfield University, University of East Anglia, Brunel University, Severn Trent Water, Scottish Water, Northern Ireland Water and United Utilities, has been awarded more than £3.5 million. It will use novel technologies to target a step change reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use in used water treatment and provide a new renewable energy source through green hydrogen production – 'triple carbon' synergy and contribution towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Adam Brookes, Manager of Innovation Discovery, Anglian Water, said: “Funding for this project will greatly support the delivery of our own net zero routemap and the water sector's drive to Net Zero by 2030, filling a significant missing piece in the challenge. By collaborating with academia, businesses and other water companies, our project creates an elegant solution to eliminate part of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with wastewater treatment and position the sector within the developing hydrogen landscape, in line with the newly launched UK Government Hydrogen strategy.” Amanda Lake, Water Process Lead, Jacobs Europe, said: “We’re excited to couple an innovative pure MABR treatment solution with green hydrogen production. We know the outcomes could be significant for the water sector - lower nitrous oxide process emissions, a role in the green hydrogen economy, valuable resource recovery and application of best practice life cycle assessment methods. What a valuable chance to work together to open the door to the lower carbon, circular economy water sector we urgently require. OxyMem MABR technology could assist the sector in achieving their global environmental goals over the coming years, by enhancing current Wastewater Treatment Plants capacity and at same time help clients move towards achieving their future net zero carbon emissions.  OxyMem MABR enables clients to add or improve ammonia reduction on existing large works using only a few kW's, and the technology can be simply dropped into existing treatment plants without the need to build additional structures or stopping live processes which are key benefits to enable the sector to achieve global environmental goals over the coming years.