ANSWER demonstration project: Eco-efficient solution to obtain reclaimed water and energy, and recover resources

The objective of the LIFE Answer project (Advanced nutrient solutions with electrochemical recovery) is to demonstrate an innovative technology that integrates electrocoagulation and microbial electrochemistry as a proposed solution for the treatment of wastewater from the food and beverage industry. The ANSWER system enables reuse of the treated water, the production of enriched biogas andthe production of fertiliser from wastewater


The objective of the LIFE ANSWER project (Advanced nutrient solutions with electrochemical recovery) is to demonstrate an integrated solution for water reuse, and the recovery of resources and energy from wastewater. The process is based on the integration of electrochemical technologies: electro-coagulation processes and a new generation of bio-electrochemical anaerobic bioreactors. The treated water is reclaimed by a system that implements ultrafiltration and photodisinfection. The project represents a fresh boost to the market for innovative technological solutions in the food and beverage industry, one of the sectors with the greatest water consumption (accounting for 1.8% of water consumed in Europe) –with potential applications for water reuse, and resources and energy recovery in other sectors.

The demonstration plant, where the testing is being carried out, is installed at the Mahou brewery wastewater treatment plant in Alovera (Guadalajara). This plant is equipped with automation and control systems to enable autonomous process operation in real operating conditionsduring the validation period. In addition to verifying the effectiveness of the system in terms of purification and nutrients recovery, the project has set itself the ambitious target of obtaining excess energy of approximately 2.5 kWh/m3. The enriched biogas obtained in the process can be used in the existing boilers at the brewery.

The removal of nutrients, mainly phosphorus and nitrogen, and organic matter from industrial wastewater is amongst the priority objectives set out for the EU in Directive 2000/60/EU. The discharge of these compounds into the natural environment causes problems of eutrophication, which endangers biodiversity in the environment. Conventional systems implemented for the removal of these compounds are primarily based on chemical dosing or biological processes that complicate the treatment process and make it significantly more costly. In contrast, ANSWER proposes a solution for the recovery of these compounds.

In addition, the treated wastewater will be reused through the implementation of ultrafiltration and UV disinfection in order to produce an effluent compliant with the legal requirements set out in Royal Decree RD 1620/2007 (services quality), which can be reused in accordance with the uses envisaged in the legislation.Such reuse of water facilitates compliance with the European roadmap set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy, which is based on efficient consumption of resources. This is one of the most important environmental challenges facing the food and beverage industry for 2020. The ANSWER project (LIFE15 ENV/ES/000591) is co-funded by the European Union LIFE programme. The project consortium is made up of MAHOU-San Miguel, Aqualia, the University of Alcalá (UAH) and Recuperaciones Tolón and the aim of the project is to respond to this problem by offering a competitive solution with significant technical, economic and environmental benefits.

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Víctor Monsalvo (Aqualia), Yeray Asensio (Aqualia), Beatriz del Castillo (Aqualia),
Frank Rogalla (Aqualia), Juan M. Ortiz (UAH), Belén Barroeta (UAH), Abraham Esteve (UAH),
Sara Tejedor (UAH), Juan Tolón (Recuperaciones Tolón),
Juan Francisco Ciriza (Grupo MAHOU-San Miguel), Patricia Fernández (Grupo MAHOU-San Miguel)

Published in: FuturENVIRO #49 April 2018