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Challenge Projects on Low Energy Treatment Schemes for Water Reuse, Phase 1

Project: 10-06 (Phase 1)
Year Released: 2013
Product: White Paper

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, Water Environment Research Foundation
Total Investment: $129,013.45 (Cash: $96,893.14, In-Kind: $32,120.31)

Principal Investigators: Carollo Engineers, University of Nevada – Reno, University of Notre Dame, University of Michigan

Goals and Objectives

The project provides four conceptual studies of innovative new process schemes as alternatives to conventional aerated activated sludge that can reduce energy consumption, improve rates of pollutant removal or transformation, and reduce the footprint of water reuse facilities.

Research Approach

The four reports listed below document the conceptual development of viable energy development approaches and represent the first phase of a two-part effort. Phase 2 will be a refinement and confirmation of a concept through modeling, pilot, or demonstration testing.

Findings and Conclusions

Carollo Engineers (10-06a): Using a combination of cited literature and internal knowledge, the members of the project team sorted through conventional treatment systems, emerging treatment systems, and innovative treatment concepts for low energy wastewater treatment and wastewater reclamation. The project team concluded that two key treatment technologies from the Emerging Treatment Systems category should be carried forward for Phase II research: the anaerobic MBR (AnMBR) and the main-stream anammox process. Other processes were also recommended for testing should outside funding become available, though the focus should be on producing high quality reclaimed water using anaerobic processes.

University of Nevada, Reno (10-06b): This project investigated the use of a multi-barrier system to produce a potable effluent from a common wastewater influent, while remaining cost-competitive with current wastewater treatment. The proposed design combines new and emerging membrane technologies with innovative methods of solids management to create a comprehensive treatment system. In order to maintain a low-energy profile, the design includes sustainability measures, such as methane harvesting and struvite capture. The project included a comprehensive literature review of the selected unit processes, the development of a computer model of the system, and an energy balance using model data.

University of Notre Dame (10-06c): This project report shows the potential energy and cost savings of a novel biofilm reactor technology based on aerated membranes in comparison to conventional activated sludge (CAS) for water and wastewater treatment. Membrane aerated biofilm reactors passively supply dissolved oxygen directly to a biofilm, without the formation of bubbles. Up to 100% oxygen transfer efficiencies can be obtained, compared to 10–40% for conventional diffused aeration systems used in CAS. The report focuses on a comparison of energy consumptions for both processes and cost estimations based on reference membrane and electricity prices for retrofit configurations. A design and costing program is used for new systems.

University of Michigan (10-06d): The research and development of anaerobic membrane bioreactors operated at psychrophilic temperatures is one possible approach to improve the sustainability of domestic wastewater treatment operations, particularly in the context of reuse. Results from bench-scale operation indicate that anaerobic membrane bioreactors can achieve direct discharge limits and serve as the core technology in water reuse schemes with a potential for economic and environmental benefits compared with conventional activated sludge processes. Elucidation of the economic and environmental benefits associated with anaerobic membrane bioreactors requires the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) to compare activated sludge treatment and microfiltration (packaged as an AeMBR) in the context of pre-treatment options for reverse osmosis or other reuse applications such as agricultural water.

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