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Advanced Filtration TEchnologies for the Recovery and Later conversIon of relevant Fractions from wastEwater

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AFTERLIFE (Advanced Filtration TEchnologies for the Recovery and Later conversIon of relevant Fractions from wastEwater)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-08-31

Human activities generate a high volume of wastewater that should be treated before being discharged with the finality to remove organic matter and nutrients that can cause environmental damage. Despite the interesting potential of many of these compounds (proteins, sugars, lipids ...) as raw materials fro bio-based industry, their valorisation is currently limited, with the best technologies on stream, to the production of bioenergy.

Within this context, the main objective of AFTERLIFE is to demonstrate at TRL-5 a promising innovative wastewater treatment with the simultaneous recovery of compounds of interest and the conversion of the rest of the organic matter into a high-volume added value biopolymer. The concept includes the use of a promising technology for the treatment of industrial and municipal wastewater, the filtration of membranes of different pore size. AFTERLIFE process is embedded in a circular economy approach through the reuse of the outlet water and the valorisation of the organic matter by the recovery and purification of high value added compounds, the conversion into value-added products and the generation of energy and clean water to be used within the process
At this stage of the project, the selected wastewaters have been sampled, characterised and various pretreatment, recovery and conversion methodologies have been developed. The model of the process has been developed as basis for its optimisation and the first iteration of LCA-based environmental assessment and techno-economic assessment activities is on-going.

At this stage of the project after 36 months from the beginning of the project, the selected wastewaters have been sampled, characterised and various pretreatment, recovery, and conversion methodologies have been developed. This way, functional schemes have been developed for the target wastewaters. The design and engineering of the processes has been developed and the pilot activities has just started. Besides, as an advance in the SoA, AFTERLIFE has allowed a straight comparison (in techno-economic and environmental impact terms) between the two strategies for the bacterial production of bioplastic polymers of type polyhydroxyalkanoates: (1) use of pure bacterial cultures and (2) of mixed cultures. The first iteration of LCA-based environmental assessment and techno-economic assessment activities has been reflected in a hot spot analysis. Key exploitable results of the project have been identified and described and exploitation strategies (through publications, patents, thesis, etc.) have drafted. A seminar and a workshop have been held online to disseminate the technology among the potential stakeholders. Besides, partners have made presentations in conferences and event about the innovations in the project.
Although membrane technologies found the best in WP1 for valuables recovery are commercially available, the developed concepts reported here are novel. Authentic wastewaters are such complex feeds to membrane filtration that, even to produce pure water, set pretreatment concepts are required to control the fouling of the membranes. All fractions from the concepts are planned to be utilized in this novel zero-waste approach. The waste fractions, which are otherwise not utilizable, were treated by an anaerobic process to produce biogas.

The WP2 is now completed with the development and optimisation of an extraction process to recover valuable compounds from wastewater from the citric fruit processing. The developed extraction processes have the potential to be applied in other streams rich in flavonoids, essential oils, or limonoids. Some examples are given in task 8.4 (Process replication). The process developed needs to be upscale, and the economic feasibility of the extraction process will be evaluated (WP7) to validate the approach proposed.

Different strategies were tested to improve the production of PHA using pure and mixed cultures. Both types of cultures were able to grow and produce PHA in all the tested streams. Moreover, results in the same magnitude order were obtained in terms of PHA produced per gram of substrate. Thus, additional criteria should also be considered to select the best strategy for piloting activities (WP6). Before using the final PHA material, Lurederra partner has optimized the PHA processing and thermoforming. The results showed that the copolymers used increased the elasticity and the tensile strength of the material compared with commercial PHBV, making them more adequate for the commercial uses.

The results obtained during the project in WP4 are expected to be exploited for having different impacts.
• New industrial applications using digital systems to produce bio-based compounds can be developed by using a control algorithm to deliver energy efficiency in a wastewater treatment plant
• The economical impact will include saving in energy consumption and sludge disposal for the wastewater treatment
• The social and environmental impact will be also favourable, including the reduction or mitigation of the carbon footprint for the management of the wastewater

Complete optimization of the overall processes has been made with the models of the whole processes. The results showed a positive value of NPV and low values of GGI after optimisation process for most of the studied schemes. Moreover, the optimization tool allows adjusting the AFTERLIFE processes and operating conditions to a wide kind of industrial wastewater. Different engineering steps have been developing. All the parameters, equipment and configurations for the pilot plant are defined.

WP6 has reached its first milestone with the deployment of the pilot line for Jak-WW treatment (MS6). However, some problems are being faced during the scale-up of PHA production. The close collaboration already set between lab developers (INN, CSIC, NID) and the partner in charge of the piloting activities (BBEPP) will be the basis for the definition of solutions to overcome such difficulties. More efforts will be dedicated at pilot scale to improve performance and replicate lab-scale results.

The hotspot analysis in the deliverables 7.1 and 7.3 will be updated in a final report, including optimization, feedback loops and a more detailed assessment of the AFTERLIFE-process with the most promising wastewater as feedstock. The full LCA and TEE will be based on measured data from the pilot plant. With regards to T7.3 the upcoming stakeholder workshop planned in WP8 (during which a questionnaire for key stakeholder, it will be handed out to the participants) will guide the development of the task towards the final D7.5 deliverable (M46) that will provide valuable insights on potential socio-economic repercussions of the AFTERLIFE project.

AFTERLIFE WP8 works in the identification of real opportunities to exploit and disseminate the information. During task 8.3 exploitable results were identified and how to find exploitation channels for those results. A dedicated workshop with an external speaker was undertaken. Each member presented their result’s exploitation potential, but we have realised that it is early to project any exploitable aspects of the project. Finally, in task 8.4 the replication of the process concept using different WW from several industries is being developed to pave a wide adoption of AFTERLIFE technology.
AFTERLIFE process scheme