Believe me or not one of the way to extend life comes out of wastewater! There are groups of engineer around the world who try to recover the most valuable resource and energy out of wastewater. At civil and environmental engineering department, we have started ‘RECOVER’ project to recover resources from wastewater. You will find more information through this post.
Phosphorus is fundamental to all living organisms. It is vital for food production since it is one of three nutrients (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) used in commercial fertilizer. Phosphorus is limited resource which means that it cannot be manufactured, and there is no substitute or synthetic version of it available. Phosphorous is a non-renewable resource that is used almost exclusively in agriculture. Global reserves will run out within 75-100 years and peak phosphorous 2030 demand will exceed supply. It is the same scenario as crude oil as phosphorous cannot be replaced or be synthetically produced.
Global stressors, such as population growth, climate change, increasing urbanization and water stress place additional pressure on water and wastewater utilities to provide adequate water and sanitation in an energy efficient manner, while protecting human health and the environment. Collectively, integrated resource recovery via water reuse, energy recovery, and nutrient recycling can address the challenges associated with the rising environmental footprint of wastewater treatment. In light of the increase in water and energy demands and their associated cost, wastewater is being viewed as a valuable resource.
In this project the goal is to recover different resources from wastewater, carbon in the form of energy and nitrogen and phosphorous in the form of fertilizer. It means that by adequate techniques we can recover valuable resources from wastewater which will make the whole process more sustainable with economic advantages. On the other hand, we should be aware that there are only a few large phosphorus deposits worldwide, and there are concerns that phosphorus fertilizer scarcity will significantly limit food production in the future. The beautiful thing about phosphorus is that instead of taking it out of the liquid and then polluting something else, we recover the phosphorus and use it. It’s all part of seeing wastewater treatment plants more as resources.
Norway is currently still dependent on large amounts of mineral P fertilizers produced from phosphate rock imported mainly from Morocco, while accumulating unused P resources in soils and aquatic systems.
At civil and environmental engineering department, we have started a big project called RECOVER for resource recovery from wastewater. The goal is phosphorous and nitrogen recovery in the form of valuable product like fertilizer and carbon resources in the wastewater in the form of energy. The project has variety of industrial partners and two research partners that are NMBU and SINTEF. It will come more information during upcoming months.