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How Will Wastewater Treatment Plants Look In 20 Years?

How Will Wastewater Treatment Plants Look In 20 Years?

The time to plan and innovate is now.

Considering wastewater treatment plants have not really changed in the past 100 years, (Activated Sludge has been the main biological treatment process since 1914) it is very exciting to see the rapid technological change that is starting to occur. So, how will wastewater treatment plants look 20 years from now?

 

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If we look at the major drivers we can begin to predict what kind of treatment facilities we may have in the not so distant future:

Energy costs

Increased urbanization

Restrictions on greenhouse emissions

Demand for water, coupled with water shortages

 

The first expectation is that the effectiveness and efficiencies of treatment systems would allow for a lot less waste and better use of resources. We hope to see new emerging innovative technologies applied in the industry leading to a reduction in energy costs.

 

As populations grow in our towns and cities, we are seeing vacant land becoming a lot less accessible – space would have to be utilised more efficiently. A wastewater treatment plant in the future would have to incorporate new methods which consume a much smaller footprint.

 

Due to the increased concern on global warming there is more awareness about emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide. Wastewater treatment plants generate greenhouse gases by consuming large amounts of energy from electrical utilities to operate the plant in addition to the facilities generating CO2 that is lost to the atmosphere. Tomorrow’s treatment plants would have to look at reducing their electrical energy consumption and create processes in which emissions are reduced. This is a topic which is gaining more attention and came up in the recent UN Climate Change Summit in New York.

 

Perhaps one day, water supply issues will be reversed with better water treatment solutions and delivery systems. The public is increasingly concerned about whether we remove all of the harmful pathogens in water, particularly in areas downstream of major river systems. Innovative bacteria growing methods will advance even further going forward to make us less energy dependent and more efficient.

 

It is hard to tell, of course, how the world will look 20 years from now. But if we do not try imagining it today, the alternative may find us unprepared in the future.The time to plan and innovate is now.  What are your opinions? Let us know of any additional ideas, challenges or thoughts. What do you see Wastewater Treatment Plants looking like in 20 years?

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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. The full-scale demonstration of MABR at Ejby Mølle provided some great insights into the technology, but one key aspect recorded was the significant difference in N2O emissions from MABR when compared against conventional activated sludge treatment. In this project VCS measured nitrous oxide emissions from the conventional activated sludge surface-aerated reactors and the MABR demonstration reactors. Liquid phase sensors were positioned in both the existing activated sludge tanks and the demonstration MABR tanks, and a gas analyser was used to measure nitrous oxide concentrations in the exhaust gas of the MABR units. Results showed that nitrous oxide emissions were on average one order of magnitude lower than those from the conventional activated sludge plant, even under much higher loading conditions. The initial results from the project are very promising and reflect the immense potential for MABR to achieve very intensive total nitrogen removal with low nitrous oxide emissions. 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.