Roadmap for implementation of optimal nutrient recovery treatment trains at WRRFs

Vaneeckhaute, C.1, Belia, E.2, Meers. E.3, Tack, F.M.G. 3, and Vanrolleghem, P.A., 1 BioEngine, Université Laval, Canada, 2 Primodal Inc.,Canada, 3 EcoChem, Ghent University, Belgium, 4 modelEAU, Université Laval, Canada



This paper develops a generic roadmap for implementation of optimal nutrient recovery teatment trains
at water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). First, guidelines are presented for setting up an optimal
bio-based fertilization strategy as function of region-specific fertilizer regulations. Next, instructions are
provided to evaluate the feasibility of bio-based fertilizer production based on the residuals’
characteristics. Finally, a conceptual algorithm is developed in order to facilitate the design of an optimal
treatment train. As such, this paper provides a useful and comprehensive decision-support system for
WRRFs aiming to implement nutrient recovery strategies.

A recent review of nutrient recovery technologies (Vaneeckhaute et al., 2017b) has highlighted the
potential for nitrogen (N) recovery as ammonium sulfate (AmS) fertilizer (Bonmati and Flotats, 2003)
and for phosphorus (P) recovery as struvite, MgNH4PO4:6H2O, and/or calcium (Ca) / magnesium (Mg)-
P precipitates (Rahman et al., 2014) at water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs), both from an
economic and environmental perspective. Nevertheless, implementation of nutrient recovery
technologies is still limited due to regulatory constraints, operational problems associated with the
(variability of the) quality and quantity of the bio-based fertilizers produced, as well as the persisting
uncertainty of fertilizer sales and inconsistency of marketing prices in regions where commercialization
is possible (Seymour, 2009). Indeed, WRRFs must deliver high-value nutrient products that can
compete with synthetically produced fertilizers already on the market. Finding the appropriate
combination and sequence of technologies to treat a particular residuals stream and the optimal
operating conditions for the overall treatment train are key concerns for producing high-quality
marketable end-products (Carey et al., 2016; Guest, 2015).

This paper aims to provide a roadmap for setting up optimal nutrient recovery trains at WRRFs,
taking into account residuals’ characteristics, regional fertilizer regulations and markets. The
scope of the study includes anaerobic digestion and the selected best available technologies applied
at full-scale for the recovery of nutrients as marketable fertilizer commodities (Vaneeckhaute et al.,
2017b), i.e. P precipitation/crystallization (end-products: struvite, Ca/Mg-P precipitates), NH3 stripping
and absorption (end-product: AmS fertilizer), and acidic air scrubbing (end-product: AmS fertilizer). The
selection of these technologies was made based on the stage of implementation, the technical performance, and financial aspects, on top of the current fertilizer marketing potential. Besides the information acquired in Vaneeckhaute et al. (2017a,b), additional data were obtained from extensive communications with technology providers. Hence, the roadmap is partially based on full-scale operational experience. As such, this paper provides a valuable decision-support system for residuals and wastewater processing utilities considering the implementation of anaerobic digestion and subsequent recovery and recycling of nutrients as marketable agricultural commodities.

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