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Technologies turn waste to profit


Once considered a negative cost center, wastewater specifically, sewage sludge can now be
a valuable resource, mitigating wastewater treatment facilities operating and disposal costs.

Wastewater Treatment Facilities Are Turning Waste into Profit


Globally, about 171 km3 of wastewater is produced annually from homes, businesses, industries, as well as
storm water runoff. The byproduct of the treatment process is sludge (or solids) that must be further treated
before disposal. Overall, treatment and handling of sludge can represent anywhere from 20% to 50% of a
wastewater treatment facilitys costs. Treating wastewater to higher and higher standards results in
increased sludge volumes that must be managed at higher and higher costs. However, new technologies can
now provide an opportunity to turn a costly waste stream into a valuable product that could actually offset
the treatment facilitys other costs.
Overall, there are three drivers prompting increased interest in extracting value from sludge:

Tightening global regulations.


Legislation around the world sets requirements for wastewater treatment and sludge disposal. For
instance, the European Unions Landfill Directive limits the organic content in landfills, preventing
sludge from being disposed in landfills; its Sewage Sludge Directive permits the use of sewage sludge
in agriculture instead, but requires additional treatment before application. In the U.S., landfilling is
an acceptable disposal option under Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, along with
land application and incineration, but several states have more stringent requirements limiting the
quality of sludge disposed.

Rising energy costs.


Energy makes up a significant share of the operations and maintenance costs for a wastewater
treatment facility, accounting for 40% to 60% of a facilitys budget.1 On average, about 0.48 kWh is
needed to treat 1 m3 of wastewater (which includes sludge treatment), and with a global average
electricity rate of $0.12/kWh, the global total electricity cost for wastewater treatment is about $10
billion annually. However, many of the emerging technologies for wastewater recovery use the
sludge to produce energy. With the uncertainty of electricity pricing in some countries its as high
as $0.19/kWh its not surprising that interest is shifting towards technologies that can provide a
favorable energy balance while reducing the volume of sludge to be disposed.

Depleted phosphorus supplies.


Phosphorus occurs in wastewater because of human waste, as well as from detergents and soaps,
and needs to be removed from wastewater because it causes surface water to become choked with
plankton and algae. However, phosphorus is also a valuable mineral to the fertilizer industry. About 7
billion tons of phosphate rocks are remaining in reserves that can be economically mined, and the
human population currently consumes 40 million tons of phosphorus per year, so current phosphate
rock reserve could last anywhere from 100 years to 250 years depending on how steeply
consumption increases.2 Recovery of phosphorus from sludge in the form of struvite, a phosphate
mineral, could potentially reduce phosphate rock mining and make phosphorus production more
sustainable.

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By taking a major cost from the process and turning into a profitable revenue stream, recovery can improve
the bottom line of a treatment facility, generating tens of billions in value worldwide. As such, recovery
technologies can be fertile hunting grounds for executives and investors looking for opportunities in the
hydrocosm.

Technologies Focused on Resource Recovery Face Many Challenges


Recovering value from sludge is not a new concept, but, despite its clear appeal, many different types of
technologies have been tested and deployed, only to fail. Challenges facing companies interested in deploying
technologies that extract value from sludge include:

Producing a valuable end product.


The composition of sludge can vary significantly, which can make it difficult for a company to develop
a technology that can consistently generate a valuable product. Case in point is the struggle that
Environmental Solutions Inc. (ESI) now known as Environmental Clean Technologies faced with
its defunct Enersludge process. The only full-scale installation of the Enersludge process was shutdown after four months of operation because the oil product it created from the processed sludge
was deemed unsuitable for diesel engines it contained high levels of water and solids.
Environmental Clean Technologies is no longer pursuing the technology.

Reducing land and carbon and carbon footprint.


Extracting energy, phosphorus, or other nutrients from sludge is not a valuable process if it requires
a significant amount of space, making it difficult to integrate into existing treatment plants, or if it
requires significant energy inputs, offsetting any value extracted from the product. Such was the fate
that befell the Sludge-to-Oil-Reactor System (STORS), which was originally developed by Battelle
Memorial Institute and licensed to ThermoEnergy through a licensing agreement. Even though pilot
testing provided some successful results, the process was complex, requiring many process vessels
and the energy input needed was also substantial, requiring 1.3 MWh to 1.4 MWh per dry metric ton
of sludge. In the end, ThermoEnergy was unable to capitalize on the success of the pilot and has since
dropped the product from its technology portfolio.

Keeping costs down.


To be attractive, technologies focused on resource recovery must be cost effective: Projects will fail if
capital and/or operating costs are too high. Utilities in Japan made attempts to repurpose their
sludge into valuable products such as brick, lightweight aggregates, and molten slag using thermal
solidification processes. While a number of large wastewater treatment plants adopted these
processes, in the end the manufacturing costs were too high, with the sewage bricks three times the
retail price of a traditional brick. The bottom line is that manufacturing costs need to be less than the
value of the product created easier said than done with emerging technologies.

Understanding Sewage Sludge Facilitates Technology Deployment


In order to understand the technical opportunities for energy and resource recovery of sewage sludge, its
important to first understand what sewage sludge is, how much is produced annually, and current disposal
strategies. These three characteristics define the issues driving sludge production and disposal and the
potential for extracting value:
Sludge Mixtures Are an Inconsistent Soup of Many Different Components
Sewage consists of wastewater from domestic, commercial, and industrial sources, as well as rainfall and
potentially, surface water. At a wastewater treatment facility, the waste stream at a minimum goes through
primary treatment, which involves both screening and passing the waste stream through large settling tanks.
Its at this point that some 70% of the materials in the water sink to the bottom, becoming sewage sludge. The
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sludge is pulled from the tank and treated by: 1) dewatering or thickening, which reduces the water content
of the sludge through centrifugal treatment or filter pressing; and/or 2) digestion, which breaks down the
organic matter using bacteria resulting in the formation of methane gas, which can be used for energy
production. The composition of untreated sewage sludge varies from treatment plant to treatment plant and
from country to country, but can be composed of 6% dry solids (which means about 94% of the sludge is
water). The dry solids typically have the following characteristics:3

Volatile solids (material that can be burned off when ignited at about 500 C) mostly organic
(carbon-based) compounds comprising about 65% of the total dry solids
Total nitrogen (organic nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, nitrate, and nitrite) typically 2.5% of total dry
solids
Phosphorous as phosphorus pentoxide (PO5) typically about 1.6% of total dry solids
Potassium as potassium carbonate (K2CO3) typically about 0.4% of total dry solids
Grease and fats ranging anywhere from 6% to 35% of total dry solids
Silica, also known as silicon dioxide (SiO2) about 15% to 20% of total dry solids
Heavy metals can include arsenic, iron, lead, mercury, and zinc, with concentrations ranging widely
from 6 mg of mercury per kg of dry solids (0.6%) to 17,000 mg of iron per kg of dry solids

The challenge with sewage sludge is that all of these compounds can be present in the mixture. Organic
compounds, phosphorus- and nitrogen-based compounds, as well as inorganic compounds are viewed as
valuable components in sludge, which many new technologies are trying to extract/recover. However, the
amount of any compound present in the sludge mixture is dependent on the source of the wastewater, as well
as the type of treatment processes employed and the chemicals used in treatment, and this variability affects
the market opportunity for various recovery technologies. In the case of phosphorus, on average there is
about 10 milligrams of phosphorus per liter of wastewater with effluent standards typically requiring less
than 1 mg/L. For instance, with a total world wastewater volume of 171.3 km2, and a market value of
phosphorus as struvite of $400 per kg, the potential market for phosphorus recovery is about $685 million
annually. However, the actual market opportunity for any given wastewater treatment plant will vary with
the concentration of phosphorus in the wastewater stream as well as the percent recovery achieved, which
can also be affected by the type of phosphorus compounds, as well as the other components of the stream.
Sludge Production Volumes Will Continue to Grow with Increasing Population and Country Wealth
Sludge production volume is important both because the sludge needs to be treated and disposed of, which
adds cost to the overall wastewater treatment process, and of course because sludge production volumes
define the total opportunity for wastewater recovery. The volume of sludge produced can vary for many
reasons, but tends to correlate primarily with population and wealth.
Data from municipal wastewater treatment plants shows a direct correlation between sewage sludge
production and population, averaging about 60 grams of sludge per person per day (see Figure 1).4 Not
surprisingly, as populations continue to grow, the volume of sludge produced annually will rise as well.
However, sludge production also depends on the wealth of the country. Many high-income countries such as
the U.S., Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, and the Netherlands provide 100% treatment, meaning that no
untreated sewage is discharged to rivers, lakes, or seas. As a result of these higher standards of treatment,
sludge production volumes are high in these countries. For example, Denmark produces 99 grams of sewage
sludge per person per day, compared to low-income or even middle-income countries, such as China, which
generates only 6.2 grams per person per day of sludge in large part because 30% of the population has no
wastewater treatment. And of course, for countries that are lacking basic wastewater treatment facilities for
the majority of the population such as Ethiopia and Columbia little or no wastewater treatment facilities
means little or no sludge produced.

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Fig. 1:

Annual Sewage Sludge Production by Country

Country type

Annual sludge
production (dry metric
ton)

Population

Sewage sludge
production rate (in
grams per person per
day)

Austria

High income

196,000

8,210,281

65.4

Australia

High income

360,000

21,007,310

47.0

Belgium

High income

113,000

10,414,336

29.7

Brazil

Middle income

372,000

188,078,000

5.4

Canada

High income

550,000

33,100,000

45.5

China

Middle income

2,996,000

1,313,974,000

6.2

Czech Republic

High income

200,000

10,235,000

53.5

Denmark

High income

200,000

5,500,510

99.6

Finland

High income

150,000

5,231,000

78.6

France

High income

878,000

64,057,792

37.6

Germany

High income

2,000,000

82,422,000

66.5

Hungary

High income

120,000

9,981,000

32.9

Ireland

High income

100,000

4,203,200

65.2

Italy

High income

1,000,000

58,134,000

47.1

Japan

High income

2,000,000

127,464,000

43.0

Jordan

Middle income

14,000

3,400,000

11.3

Netherlands

High income

1,500,000

16,491,000

249.2

Norway

High income

86,500

4,611,000

51.4

Portugal

High income

236,700

10,606,000

61.1

Russia

Middle income

3,000,000

140,702,096

58.4

Slovakia

High income

55,000

5,439,000

27.7

Slovenia

High income

57,000

2,010,000

77.7

Spain

High income

1,069,000

40,525,002

72.3

Turkey

Middle income

580,000

70,414,000

22.6

United Kingdom

High income

1,500,000

60,609,000

67.8

United States

High income

6,514,000

298,444,000

59.8

Thus, sludge volumes will grow as countries grow in population and become wealthier. For example, if Brazil
and China, which are both middle-income countries, were to attain the same level of wastewater service
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coverage as high-income countries, the annual sludge production could theoretically increase from 372,000
metric tons to over 4 million metric tons per year for Brazil and from 2.9 million metric tons per year to 28.4
million metric tons per year for China. As a result of this growth, sludge management will continue to be a
growing concern for countries around the world. We estimate that the annual global volume of sewage sludge
is about 46 billion metric tons, representing a total treatment and disposal cost of about $17 billion and
current population and GDP growth trends suggest it could reach a volume of 54 billion metric tons and
disposal costs of $31 billion in 2020.
Current Sludge Disposal Options All Have Their Drawbacks
Sewage sludge must be treated before its disposed. Treatment includes removal of moisture from solids via
thickening, conditioning, dewatering, and drying and stabilization of the organic material through composting
or digestion. The remaining product is typically called biosolids, which can be disposed of one of three
ways: landfilling, incineration, or recycling to the soil (see Figure 2).
Fig. 2: Sludge Disposal Practices in the United States and the European Union Are Heavily Focused on
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Agricultural Land Application.
Fig. 2-1: Current sludge disposal practices in the
United States

Fig. 2-2: Current sludge disposal practices in the


European Union

2%
13%
28%

46%

21%
55%

15%
20%

Agriculture

Incineration

Landfill

Surface disposal

Agriculture
Landfill

Incineration
Other

Landfilling is a common option, but one that is on the decline.


Despite the simplicity of dumping sludge in municipal landfills, its not a viable long-term solution.
Modern landfills are complex and costly facilities to build and operate and in many locations,
accessible, long-term landfill capacity is limited. The allure of landfilling solids is also tainted by
tipping fees, which can range anywhere from $25 to $75 per metric ton, and transportation costs to
haul the sludge to the landfill.
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Incineration creates environmental issues of its own.


Incineration of sludge is another limited disposal option because the ash produced in the
incineration process must be treated as a hazardous waste since it contains high levels of heavy
metals. While incineration is practiced quite frequently in the Netherlands and Germany, its unlikely
to catch on worldwide due to these pollution worries.

Land application is the predominant disposal route for sludge.


Applying sludge to farms and fields sounds like a win-win: A disposal route applicable to high
volumes of sludge for treatment plants; a source of fertilizer for farmers. However, increasing public
awareness of contaminants in water and the concern about toxic pollutants present in the sludge
leaching into the soil and groundwater limits the long-term viability of this option without extensive
treatment to ensure that the sludge is safe to use.

Wastewater treatment facilities must take all of these factors into consideration when determining the best
disposal option for its treated sludge. Reducing disposal costs such as transportation, tipping fees, or energy
fees is a goal for all wastewater treatment facilities. As energy and fuel prices climb, treatment plants will be
looking for ways to reduce sludge disposal costs, and resource recovery technologies can do just that by
reducing sludge volume while providing a valuable end product that can offset some of the plants operating
costs.

A Myriad of Technologies Extract Value from Sewage Sludge


New technologies are in development or are commercially available that recover and reuse valuable
components from sludge, and these processes can be integrated into the existing sludge treatment process.
These technologies can be grouped into two categories those that recover energy and those that recover
chemicals and materials (see Figure 3).
Fig. 3:

Summary of Technologies for Recovering Value from Sewage Sludge


Description

End product

Beneficial use

Companies

Anaerobic digestion

Utilizes microbes to
breakdown sewage

Biogas

Thermal or electrical
energy

Shaw Group, Veolia


Water

Thermal hydrolysis

Cell lysing at high


temperatures and
pressure; pretreatment
for anaerobic digestion

Biogas

Thermal or electrical
energy

Cambi, Veolia Water

Ultrasonic cavitation

Cell lysing using


acoustical frequencies;
pretreatment for
anaerobic digestion

Biogas

Thermal or electrical
energy

Ultrawaves, Eimco Water


Technologies, Kotobuki,
Royce Water
Technologies

Mechanical/chemical
disintegration

Cell lysing through


chemical or mechanical
means; pretreatment for
anaerobic digestion

Biogas

Thermal or electrical
energy

Biogest, MicroSludge,
Eco-Solids

Ozonation

Ozone gas oxidizes cell


walls; pretreatment for
anaerobic digestion

Biogas

Thermal or electrical
energy

Praxair, ITT-Wedeco

Gasification

Heating sludge to form a


char that reacts with

Syngas

Fuel that can generate


electricity and heat

KOPF, PrimeEnergy,
EBARA, Nexterra

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water and oxygen


Pyrolysis

Heating sludge to form a


char, which is vaporized

Biodiesel/oil

Oil product used as fuel in


boilers or combusted to
produce electricity

Enertech, Splainex, US
Centrifuge

Supercritical water
oxidation

Exposes sludge to high


heat and pressure
resulting in carbon
dioxide, nitrogen, and an
inert material

Thermal heat;
phosphorus

Thermal heat, potentially


electricity, fertilizer

Veolia Water, SCFI,


Feralco

Microbial fuel cells

Producing electricity
directly from wastewater
or sludge

Electricity

Thermal or electrical
energy

Emefcy, InTact Labs, HySyence

Grease to biodiesel

Chemical process that


converts grease into
biodiesel

Biodiesel

Heating, engine
combustion

Biofuel Box, BlackGold


Biofuels

Crystallization

Chemical precipitation of
phosphorus using a seed
material

Struvite or calcium
phosphate

Fertilizer

DHV Water, Ostara


Nutrient Recovery
Technologies, Unitika

Physical-chemical
technologies

Precipitation,
incineration or separation
of phosphorus from
sludge

Phosphorus compounds
including struvite,
phosphoric acid or iron
phosphate

Fertilizer

Kemira, Seaborne

Vitrification

Combustion of sludge to
form a building material

Glass

Construction materials

Minergy (formerly)

Thermal solidification

Ash from sludge


incineration converted to
building materials

Building materials

Construction materials

None

Energy Recovery Technologies Can Convert Sludge into Biofuel or Electricity


Recovering energy from sludge is a relatively new business, though the basic technology has long been
available in the form of anaerobic digesters. The process feeds the sludge to anaerobic bacteria (those that
can live and eat without oxygen present,) in a closed vessel called a digester; as the bacteria consume the
sludge, they produce a biogas that consists of approximately 60% methane (CH4) and 40% carbon dioxide
(CO2). This biogas is now recognized as a significant source of useful energy, as thermal electrical or
mechanical energy can be recovered from the biogas through the use of turbines, fuel cells, or boilers. New,
innovative technologies are finding a way to recover energy from sludge in the form of biogas itself, or other
products that can be made from sludge, such as syngas a mixture of hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide
(CO) thermal energy, diesel fuel or oil, and electricity. Technologies that extract energy from sludge include:

Enhanced anaerobic digestion.


Anaerobic digestion is a well established technology with about 3,500 installations at wastewater
treatment plants worldwide. While anaerobic digestion is a fairly mature technology, new
technologies are in development, making slight changes to the technology, such as the Shaw Groups
modified anaerobic baffled reactor, which enables the system to process the sludge in 24 hours,
instead of the 12 days to 25 days that conventional anaerobic digesters require. Companies providing
enhanced anaerobic digestion technologies include the Shaw Group and Veolia Water.

Thermal hydrolysis.

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Thermal hydrolysis technologies are designed to work with anaerobic digesters to enhance biogas
production. The process destroys microbial cell walls in the sludge, releasing a more easily digestible
organic compound by heating sludge to a high temperature, about 150 C to 180 C, and high
pressure, between 6 bar and 10 bar, for a period of 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Thermal hydrolysis
processes from companies such as Veolia Water, and Cambi can produce about 1.5 times more biogas
than conventional anaerobic digestion.

Ultrasonic cavitation.
Like thermal hydrolysis, ultrasonic cavitation is a complimentary technology to anaerobic digestion
that enhances cell destruction to boost yields. The process uses acoustical frequencies, ranging from
20 kHz to about 100 kHz, to create microscopically small cavities filled with water vapor or gas.
These bubbles implode, a process known as cavitation, producing powerful shear forces that break
up cellular matter, resulting in increased biogas production of up to 50%. Ultrawaves has licensed its
ultrasonic technology to companies such as Eimco Water Technologies, Kotobuki, and Royce Water
Technologies.

Mechanical or chemical disintegration.


Disintegration systems are anaerobic digestion enhancers that can potentially yield 30% more
biogas. The process weakens the cell wall by either chemical means (for instance, by adding caustic
soda) or mechanical means (such as a macerator) before the sludge is sent to a mixer to ensure a
homogenous suspension. The homogenized sludge is then mechanically disintegrated, which causes
the cell structures to collapse and release their contents, before the sludge is sent to an anaerobic
digester. Companies offering mechanical disintegration technologies include Biogest, Microsludge,
and Eco-Solids.

Ozonation.
Ozone technology is already used at treatment facilities around the world because the ozone gas
generated acts as an effective oxidant as well as disinfectant. However, another valuable use for
ozone is for lysing cellular matter in sewage sludge. The use of ozone to enhance anaerobic digestion
biogas production is still relatively new and under evaluation, but companies such as Praxair and
ITT-Wedeco have preliminary results indicating yield improvements of up to 40%.

Gasification.
Unlike the above processes, which enhance biogas production, gasification produces a different
energy product from sludge syngas. Gasification takes place in two steps. In the first step, sludge is
heated to about 600 C in the absence of air to form a carbon-rich substance called char. The char is
then heated in the presence of oxygen or air, and water, producing syngas. Gasification is employed
around the world for treatment of a wide variety of materials, including coal, biomass, and municipal
solid waste (MSW). Examples of companies providing gasification technologies for sewage sludge
applications include KOPF, PrimeEnergy, and EBARA.

Pyrolysis.
The conversion of sewage sludge to oil relies on pyrolysis, which is the conversion of sludge to char
in the absence of air. The char vaporizes at elevated temperatures, 425 C to 538 C, and rapid
cooling and condensation of the vapor results in the oil that can be used as a fuel in boilers or
combusted in an engine to produce electricity. Pyrolysis can also operate at temperatures below 325
C, producing not oil, but rather a char that can be burned as fuel, with an energy density of 13,960
kJ/kg, roughly the same value as lignite coal. Pyrolysis technologies can process a wide range of
inputs, including municipal solid waste, process manure, and agricultural waste, but companies
providing pyrolysis technologies for sewage sludge treatment include Enertech, Splainex, and US
Centrifuge.

Supercritical water oxidation.


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Supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) operates by heating water to 374 C and pressurizing it to 221
bars to create a phase of water called supercritical water, which exhibits characteristics of both a
liquid and a gas. Sludge in supercritical water oxidizes rapidly in the presence of oxygen, converting
all carbon present in the sludge to carbon dioxide and nitrogen compounds into nitrogen (N2). When
the pressure is then lowered to less than 10 bars, the carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and any residual
oxygen can be removed from the waste stream, leaving an inert material that can be landfilled or
treated further for recovery of phosphorus. Depending on the size of the SCWO unit, the process can
produce waste heat for recovery, potentially as electricity. However, smaller plants will only have the
option to recover low-grade heat, which can be used for heating options in earlier treatment
processes or for district heating. Companies providing SCWO technologies include Veolia Water,
SCFI, and Feralco.

Microbial fuel cells.


Microbial fuel cells can process the wastewater liquid itself or sludge, removing organic matter and
reducing sludge output while producing energy. The process captures electrons released by the
oxidation of dissolved organic material in wastewater by bacterial strains that are growing on
electrodes (called the anode and cathode) with the fuel cell. The bacteria release electrons, free
protons (H+ ions), and carbon dioxide as part of their metabolic process; the electrons are captured
by the anode while the protons are released into the water, diffusing to the cathode, where they
recombine with the electrons after the latter have been used to do useful work. Microbial fuel cells
are still in the early stage of development and the goal of one company, Emefcy, is to generate 0.5
kWh of free electrical energy per kilogram of dissolved organic matter (dissolved organic matter in
wastewater has an energy density of about 4 kWh per kilogram). Companies investigating microbial
fuel cells include Emefcy, InTact Labs, and Hy-Syence.

Grease to biodiesel technology.


Wastewater treatment facilities must also deal with oils and greases collected from commercial or
industrial businesses materials that can be harvested for energy, but which otherwise would
contribute to sludge production. A grease trap captures grease that has gone down a drain and
prevents it from going deeper into sewer pipes, where it can clog the pipes, causing a sewer overflow.
On a regular basis, the grease is vacuumed out of the trap and hauled to a local wastewater treatment
facility, which is paid a tipping fee to dispose of the grease, usually around $18 to $52 per cubic meter
of grease. Typically, wastewater treatment plants then transfer the grease to an incinerator or
landfill, but another option is converting grease into biodiesel through dewatering, filtration, and a
chemical conversion. Companies developing such an approach include BioFuelBox and BlackGold
Biofuels.

Chemical and Material Recovery Technologies Are Still in the Early Stages of Development
The concept of recovering phosphorus or other useful chemicals and materials from sludge is newer than
energy recovery, and technologies in this area are still in the early stages of development. Methods for
recovering valuable products from sludge include:

Crystallization.
Crystallization processes typically use a seed material, such as sand, to encourage crystals of
phosphorus-containing materials to develop in the sludge, where they can be collected. Activated
sludge is sent to a reactor filled with the seed material, and a chemical such as lime calcium oxide
(CaO) is added to adjust the pH and to create optimal conditions for precipitation of calcium
phosphate (CaPO4). Over time, calcium phosphate pellets form, and as they increase in size and
weight, the larger, denser pellets sink to the bottom of the reactor, where they can be pulled off and
used as a fertilizer raw material.

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Depending on the seed material, chemical addition may not be needed. One seed material under
development is tobermorite, which is composed of calcium silicate hydrates (CaSiO5xH2O), that
stimulates precipitation of calcium phosphate while also increasing the reactor pH. Another variation
of the crystallization process is to use magnesium chloride (MgCl2), which is added to the activated
sludge and pumped into a fluidized bed reactor, forming crystals of struvite ammonium magnesium
phosphate ((NH4)MgPO4) that can be resold as fertilizer. Companies providing crystallization
technologies include DHV Water, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, and Unitika.

Physical-chemical technologies.
Many emerging technologies are turning to physical-chemical means to dissolve phosphorus and
then separating it from heavy metals or other sludge components via precipitation. Some
technologies utilize only chemicals to dissolve and precipitate phosphorus, while others turn to
incineration or ion exchange. The final product which can be struvite, phosphoric acid (H3PO4), or
iron (III) phosphate (FePO4) depends on the chemical used in the precipitation step. Companies
offering physical-chemical technologies for phosphorus recovery include Kemira and Seaborne.

Vitrification.
Vitrification can turn sewage sludge into construction materials by injecting the sludge along with air
into a chamber where it combusts, releasing a significant amount of heat energy, and raising the
temperature to about 1,300 C to 1,500 C. The sludge melts at these temperatures into molten glass as
the organic materials combust, leaving behind silica and other inorganic materials. The gases (combustion
products) are exhausted from the melting unit to a heat recovery system, and the glass is drained into a
quenching tank. Only one company has sold a vitrification system, Minergy, but the firm recently went
through reorganization and no longer sells this system.

Thermal solidification.
Thermal solidification uses ash from sewage sludge incineration to create building materials such as
artificial lightweight aggregates, brick, slag, ceramic, glass, and interlocking tile, by melting and
solidifying the ash in a process analogous to sludge vitrification. Currently, there are no companies
selling thermal solidification systems, and the process remains very energy intensive.

Landscape Conclusions
From our review of sewage sludge characteristics, treatment, and disposal, we conclude the following:

Sludge production volumes will continue to grow with increasing population and country wealth.

Current sludge disposal methods have their drawbacks.

There are a variety of technologies available to extract value from sludge in the form of energy,
nutrients, or building materials.

Source: Wastewater Engineering: Treatment and Reuse, 4th Edition, Metcalf & Eddy, Inc.

Source: An Economic Evaluation of Phosphorus Recovery as Struvite from Digester Supernatant, L.Shu,
P.Schneider, V. Jegatheesan, and J. Johnson, Bioresource Technology, vol. 97, 2006.
2

Source: Wastewater Engineering: Treatment and Reuse, 4th Edition, Metcalf & Eddy, Inc.

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Industries either treat wastewater on-site or discharge it to a municipal wastewater facility for treatment.
Its estimated that about 80% of all industrial wastewater is eventually treated at a publically owned
wastewater treatment facility.
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Sources:

State of Science Report: Energy and Resource Recovery from Sludge, Y. Kalogo and H. Monteith, Global Water
Research Coalition, 2008.
Global Atlas of Excreta, Wastewater, Sludge, and Biosolids Management: Moving Forward the Sustainable and
Welcome Uses of a Global Resource, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), 2008.
Source: Global Atlas of Excreta, Wastewater, Sludge, and Biosolids Management: Moving Forward the
Sustainable and Welcome Uses of a Global Resource, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UNHabitat), 2008.
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