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EU market research for an innovative algae based tertiary wastewater treatment system

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IPHYC-H2020 (EU market research for an innovative algae based tertiary wastewater treatment system)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2015-10-31

Every year vast volumes of effluents are released to the environment. These effluents contain nutrients and other materials that lead to damage and degradation of the environment and contamination of the water table. This is a challenge that crosses national boundaries and is leading to legislative, economic and social pressures being brought to bear around the wold e.g. the EU urban wastewater framework.

Industrial Phycology (IPHYC) is a multi-award winning SME that has used its expertise to develop an innovative approach to tertiary wastewater treatment. By using microalgae in an innovative modular internally lit bioreactor system with state of the art techniques IPHYC aims to solve this pressing problem. This system offers a lower energy treatment process compared to other treatment technologies and unlike existing algal technology has been designed with industrial scales in mind. In addition, IPHYCs process is designed to require no chemical additions and produces minimal waste. Instead it generates a ready-to-use biomass as a waste product. This biomass can be used as an anaerobic digestion feedstock or as a high protein animal feed.

IPHYC has now reached the stage where its technology is proven at small scale and is currently being proven at pilot scale. By receiving “SME Instrument – Phase 1” funding IPHYC has been able to support this work by carrying out a vital EU market viability study and analysis for the I-PHYC process as a tertiary municipal treatment option and also as a secondary treatment process for industrial wastewaters. This viability study has helped I-PHYC to target key applications faster and with a greater understanding of local market conditions than without funding, along with positioning the company for faster expansion and growth in the future.

The work IPHYC has been able to carry out though the support of the “SME Instrument” consists of 4 key areas:

1) A detailed assessment of the market and the competing technologies to IPHYCs innovation.
2) Interviews with key stakeholders of the market’s needs, pain and steps needed to encourage up take of IPHYCs technology.
3) Analysis of the various uses of algal biomass produced from effluents including; market trends; practicality; value of biomass.
4) Assessment of the industrial wastewater market, its value and growth potential.

All of this information will be collated, analysed and used to produce the projects final report.
Over this period IPHYC has carried out a range of mission critical activities towards completing its project goals. An in-depth review of the main competing technologies has been carried out including their OPEX, CAPEX and limitations with regards to incoming legislation. Through this IPHYC has been able to who the range of pressures being brought to bear on the wastewater industry and how this is rendering existing equipment, with its reliance on chemical dosing and high energy inputs outdated. IPHYC is suing this information to carry out a companion of the benefits its algal based technology offers. As part of this IPHYC has commenced developing a detailed LCA with the support of experts at Carbon Limiting Technologies, using one of the most common rival processes in the UK at present as the initial counterfactual.

IPHYC has also made significant progress towards completion of its 2nd work package. 15 interviews have been carried out with industry leaders from all areas of the wastewater arena in order to better understand i) there pain ii) any specific work, development or goals they would like to see achieved by IPHYC and its technology. These people and organisations have included; wastewater producers – both major municipal and industrial; companies that build treatment works and supply the industry; independent experts in the field. This is allowing IPHYC to assess the pain of industry, the need for its technology in various situations and the next steps needed in order for these organisations to engage further with IPHYC and support deployment of its technology at scale.

IPHYC has also begun work on its 4th work unit and is collecting date on the value of the various global wastewater segments broken down across municipal and industrial areas as well as major suppliers to those industries. This is allowing it to better assess its price point and in combination with the information from its other work units its value proposition and the most important initial target markets and organisations.
The information gathered by IPHYC to date has shown an industry currently dependent a range of outdated infrastructure. Some of this technology has been in use for almost a century and will not be able to cope with the tough incoming legislation. In many situations these technologies require chemical additions and large power requirements, for example ~5% of all UK power is used by the water utilities (along with associated carbon emissions). Forcing this existing ageing infrastructure to meet new legislation could see there operating costs rise up to 10x. All at a time when national governments and wider legislation (e.g. EU Urban Wastewater Directive) is demanding improved effluent quality while reducing, carbon emissions, power usage and chemical dependence.

Industry has recognised the limitations of the current equipment and has confirmed to IPHYC the need for new innovations such as it has developed. This will result in new equipment being deployed across Europe and beyond over the next 5 years and is expected to see a doubling in value of the wastewater market. IPHYCs technology is currently well placed to offer a solution to this need, not only allowing wastewater operators to meet there targets. But will also help reduce carbon emissions and power usage by the industry and protect the environment, including water sources downstream from wastewater facilities. IPHYCs technology also offers important additional value in that It does not produce waste, instead it recovers the valuable, limited resources in effluents in the recoverable form of algal biomass.
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