Cetaqua will lead LIFE ENRICH project whose objective is to contribute to the circular economy through nutrient recovery from WWTP

Cetaqua, water technology center, will lead the European project LIFE ENRICH (Enhanced Nitrogen and Phosphorus Recovery from Wastewater and Integration in the Value Chain), whose objective is to contribute to the circular economy through nutrient recovery from Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTP) and their subsequent valorization in agriculture.

Currently, in the agricultural sector, phosphorus and nitrogen are the main nutrients used as fertilizers. However, the production of nitrogen for use in agriculture has a negative impact on the environment due to its high energy consumption. On the other hand, phosphorus is a non-renewable natural resource, so if the current levels of exploitation are maintained, it may become scarce in the future.

On the other hand, the purifiers eliminate, among other nutrients, the nitrogen and phosphorus present in the waste water in order to prevent the contamination that the treated water can produce in the natural environment. Specifically, during this purification process, nitrogen is biologically converted to nitrogen gas, while phosphorus is removed from the water by chemical precipitation in most cases, which carries into high operating costs.

The LIFE ENRICH project, which will start in September 2017 and will last for three and a half years, proposes a solution that will allow the recovery of nutrients from wastewater and their use as fertilizers. The recovered nutrients will be analyzed in detail and mixed to obtain optimum products for their use in certain crops, thus promoting a circular economy model.

The project will also analyze the entire value chain of nutrient recycling, integrating public administrations, treatment plants, universities and technology centers in different sectors, with the aim of demonstrating the technical, economic, environmental and regulatory feasibility of this new model. In a second stage, the replicability of this initiative will be evaluated to other European countries.

Sílvia López Palau, Project Manager at Cetaqua, will be the coordinator of the LIFE ENRICH project, which will also have the participation of the Instituto de Investigación y Tecnología Agroalimentaria (IRTA), in charge of the agronomic tests; Aquatec-SUEZ Advanced Solutions, responsible of defining the business model; the irrigatoion community Aigües del Segarra Garrigues (ASG), as the final user of the products; the Empresa Municipal de Aguas y Saneamiento de Murcia (EMUASA), responsible of the operation of the pilot, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) as experts in the recovery of nitrogen and Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), as experts in recovery of phosphorus.

The LIFE ENRICH partners participated yesterday in the Kick-off Meeting of the project, which took place in Murcia. Throughout the meeting, the technical actions were reviewed, the roles of each partner were defined and the possible challenges faced by this initiative were discussed. On the other hand, the attendees visited the WWTP of Murcia East, where the pilot prototype of the project will be located.

This initiative reinforces Cetaqua’s commitment to circular economy as one of the strategic axes of its activity, and allows progress towards a more sustainable water cycle management model. On the other hand, Cetaqua reaffirms itself as the leading entity in Spain in obtaining projects of the European LIFE program, whose purpose is to favour innovative solutions and technologies in the matter of environment.