Explore the project
We believe that we have a solution that will make a great difference for the nitrogen cleaning and recovery industry. Read below why we believe it is needed, what our solution solve, and how we plan to make this happen.
Nitrogen is essential to life and is among the nutrients consumed in the largest quantities by all agricultural crops. However, today's linear flow of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) from fertiliser manufacturing to wastewater treatment plant via food production and human consumption is not sustainable.
Humans and animals excrete a significant fraction of the nutrients contained in the food they ingest. Alongside other agricultural sources, these nutrients find their way back into the environment primarily as municipal wastewater effluents. Anthropogenic loading of nutrients is the main cause for eutrophication of receiving water bodies. Therefore, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are needed for treating these nutrient rich effluents.
Both the manufacturing of mineral nitrogen fertilisers and the biological methods for wastewater treatment consume large amounts of energy and chemicals today. It also leads to emission of greenhouse gases and ammonia, which causes acidification and eutrophication.
Making a linear process circular
Todays removal of nitrogen in waste flows is associated with high costs and sensitive biological processes. At the same time manufacture of nitrogen fertilisers is associated with energy consumption and climate emissions. Our chemical process changes this. With a stable, robust, climate friendly and cost efficient process we remove the nitrogen from waste flows and converts the removed nitrogen to products suitable for e.g. fertiliser production.
The nitrogen treatment process in for example WWTPs requires massive aeration to oxidize all ammonium to nitrate. In order to obtain an efficient conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gas by de-nitrification an expensive source of carbon such as methanol is usually needed. The biologically process is both costly and sensitive to disruption. It also entails emissions of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas which has an impact on the climate that is 300 times greater than carbon dioxide.
Traditional methods of purifying nitrogen usually release the nitrogen back into the air - instead of recycling it. Ammonia, the basic compound for the production of nitrogen fertilisers, is by far the largest reason of carbon footprint in cereal production. The ammonia production industry for manufacturing of mineral fertilisers relies heavily on natural gas as a non-renewable precursor for hydrogen and energy. To recycle the ammonia removed from wastewater streams can reduce the need of producing virgin ammonia.
We in the VA industry have for a long time been looking for different solutions to recover nitrogen from wastewater and if this is a successful result, we are facing an important breakthrough for nitrogen recovery.
Anders Finnson, Senior Environmental Advisor at Svenskt Vatten
Today, only a small proportion of nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, is returned from wastewater treatment plants to food production through application of sewage sludge to arable land. However, the largest problem is the sludge not used in agriculture but the sludge that today are landfilled or incinerated, if the nutrients in the sludge is not taken care of.
A logical conclusion is that nitrogen-containing effluents should be viewed as a nitrogen resource instead of a waste and nitrogen-containing effluents should be exploited through the recovery of nitrogen in forms that efficiently could be used in agriculture or other industries. This positive development is what this project aims to demonstrate.
Environmental problems targeted
The overall goal of the LIFE RE-Fertilizer project is to demonstrate a new, innovative and efficient process, patented by EasyMining, for removal and recovery of ammonium from aqueous flows. In the unique solution nitrogen is first captured by an precipitation chemical and separated from the wastewater. In the second step the captured ammonium is recovered in a conversion plant to a commercial viable product and the precipitation chemical is regenerated to be used in the process again.
The project contains the following sub-objectives:
- Validation of the recycling process by upscaling from lab scale to pilot scale in order to secure and validate the optimal design for and set-up of future full scale plants.
- Validation of the market potential by working closely with trial customers from the value chain to demonstrate and validate the process and end products. The recycled nutrients functional properties will be verified and an efficient and robust process will be secured.
- To present and disseminate the project’s results to process and product targets groups in Europe.
Geographic and industry scope
The project will be conducted mainly in three geographic sites:
- Uppsala for the process optimization work (at EasyMining´s laboratory)
- Copenhagen for the demonstration of the prototype at WWTP (BIOFOS´ wastewater treatment plant Lynetten)
- Bro, outside Stockholm, for the demonstration of the prototype at landfill (Ragn-Sells´ landfill Högbytorp)
Even if the project are focused in the Nordic area the market for implementation of the finalised, commercial solution is Europe and also worldwide. Removal and recovery of nitrogen from water with a high nitrogen concentration is a worldwide problem.
The international exchange is very important and EasyMinings´ nitrogen removal method is interesting around the world - in the OECD countries there are both treatment plants and increasing purification requirements.
Anders Finnson, Senior Environmental Advisor at Svenskt Vatten
In the same way as with the geographic scope, the industry scope is believed to be much larger than the scope for the project. The finalised commercial solution should be applicable to other water streams with a high nitrogen concentration than reject water in waste water treatment plants and leachate from landfills. Other areas where we see the solution is applicable for example animal manure and biogas fuel production.
EasyMining is a Swedish company formed in 2007 and a part of the Ragn-Sells Group since 2014. The company is R&D intensive and has developed a number of patented processes for recovering valuable materials from waste flows. It offers a range of solutions that help solve some of today's toughest and most critical problems relating to for example the recovery of phosphorus from sewage sludge, and the extraction of commerical salts from fly ash from waste incineration.
BIOFOS is Denmark’s largest wastewater treatment utility, treating wastewater from 1,4 million population equivalents in three plants around Copenhagen. The three plants are all operating efficiently with a high degree of automation. The company has a strong focus on the reuse and recovery of valuable resources in the wastewater.
Lantmännen is an agricultural cooperative and Northern Europe’s leader in agriculture, machinery, bioenergy and food products. With grain at the heart of their operations, they refine arable land resources to make farming thrive. Some of their best known food brands are AXA, Bonjour, Kungsörnen, GoGreen, Gooh, FINN CRISP, Schulstad and Vaasan. Lantmännen is founded on the knowledge and values acquired through generations of farmers.
Ragn-Sells is a privately held corporate group operating companies in four countries. We collect, treat, detoxify and recycle waste and residual products from businesses, organisations and households. The business area Treatment & Detox owns and operates a number of waste management plants and landfills, handling large waste flows of tricky materials. This also includes sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants.
Contact & Project Details
EasyMining Sweden AB
Anna Lundbom, Project leader
+46 (0)70 927 28 29
The LIFE RE-Fertilize project number: