Efficiency boost for water treatment plants

There are more than 65,000 wastewater treatment plants in Europe, each providing an essential service to local populations.

  • By simply installing innovative new equipment, plants could cut energy use by up to 25% while increasing nutrient removal by up to 20%.

Operationally, a plant is designed to address the average waste water flow and composition from the towns or city it serves.  But the organic load changes regularly – from day to night, during weekends and between seasons.

  • While output is sampled regularly, once a month, in line with EU regulations, the samples are not necessarily an accurate indicator of the plant’s entire output.
  • At a technical level, all waste water treatment plants have a system to remove the nutrient and organic load. As small and medium-sized plants are not manned at all times, aeration engines are often simply switched on and off at specific times, or according to the readings picked up by a dissolved oxygen sensor.

Engineers within the EU-funded project OptimEDAR (‘Efficient Management of Small and Medium Wastewater Treatment Plants’) are hoping to first demonstrate the feasibility of this new technology, and then to roll it out across Europe.

  • Scientific knowledge of the processes inside the tank, and practical experience, tells us that there is a minimum set of parameters that can be measured with non-expensive sensors.
  • With these sensors, OptimEDAR calculates the equivalent organic load, and controls the aeration process according to this ‘virtual’ information.
  • The prototype, developed within a national research project, addresses current operational, regulatory and technical weaknesses that are reducing the efficiency of waste water treatment plants across Europe.
  • A prototype installed at a plant in Badajoz, Spain, was able to reduce the time that biological blowers operate each day from 14-16 hours to 5-6 hours, while enabling the generation of denitrification and dephosphation cycles.
  • This ensures higher quality output.

Within the OptimEDAR project, the team is conducting case studies in Spain and Romania.

  • The equipment will be installed at six different plants, giving the team the opportunity to assess whether the savings witnessed with the prototype can also be obtained in other environments.
  • Research projects are looking into new treatment processes that would lead to the building of new plants or new process lines in existing plants.
  • This would be a major investment.

OptimEDAR ends in July 2014 and received around €600 000 in funding from the EU.

SourceCORDIS News 

ECOS Environmental Consultants Limited