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Novel Organic recovery using Mobile ADvanced technology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NOMAD (Novel Organic recovery using Mobile ADvanced technology)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The NOMAD project focuses on the optimized handling and use of digestate from anaerobic digestion (AD) plants. Such plants transform organic waste that otherwise would end up in landfill, into energy (renewable biogas) but also produce digestate, as a by-product, in large amounts creating a major management issue both for storage, utilization or disposal. The NOMAD project unlocks the potential use of digestate’s nutrients and fibre for fertilization while it produces cleaner water.
The NOMAD project is a collaboration of research and technical partners from the EU (Greece, Italy, Romania, Malta, the Netherlands), the UK and China, seeking to unlock the value of digestate unveiling its potential for the recovery of value-added products through a circular economy approach, addressing, at the same time, region-specific challenges.
The project will design, build and demonstrate an innovative small-scale mobile digestate processing technology that will reduce the overall volume of the digestate by 85-90%. The NOMAD innovative mobile approach will be equipped with all the key technologies to enable effective digestate management and nutrient recovery from decentralised anaerobic digestion plants, producing digestate-derived fertilizers and soil amenders tailored to farmers’ soil and crop requirements and pharmaceutical free water.
In line with the EU bio-economic strategy, NOMAD´s strategy could lead to pioneering changes in the way digestate is used in future circular bio-economies, making small biogas plants more viable, with the potential of scaling up to serve larger plants.
Within the first period, the NOMAD project main activities were to design the “mobile plant”. For this the project took into account the state of the art of the digestate processing technologies, a stakeholder engagement exercise to determine the technical, commercial, regulatory and market considerations required to inform the design and operation of the NOMAD mobile unit and the commercial viability of the NOMAD business model.
The NOMAD process will be able to tackle very diverse digestates. Physicochemical characterization (about the environmental burden as well as nutrients content and nature) was performed of such samples from digestates derived from the anaerobic digestion of different waste stream origins. The test cases were the actual biogas plants that will host the demonstration activities in the UK, Greece, Italy and Malta.
Based on the findings, the design package includes detailed process flow diagrams, components specifications, CAD layout diagram and process mass and energy balance. Critical to the design was taking into account the limited space and resources on the “mobile plant” which introduced unit size constraints and required compact arrangement of all necessary components. In turn, the finalization of the design provides the required feedback for the regulatory approvals.
A novel approach on use of selective electrodialysis (SED) is employed and tested in lab scale tests prior to the large scale employment while antibiotics apparent in the digestate are eliminated in the final clean water product by employing an advanced oxidation method (coupled UV-ozonation).
In the case of the nutrient recovery method, extensive research was conducted on a lab-scale developed SED unit to determine the parameters that affect the recovery of nutrients and to evaluate the efficiency of the method. In the case of the antibiotics removal technology, the conceptual design of the unit was determined and the experimental plan for the upcoming validation trials was developed. In addition, a preliminary formulation calculator was developed for the identification of key assumptions that require validation prior to finalising the benchmarking product composition analysis, quantification of formulated product values and fertiliser specifications.
The process was arranged onto two transportable trailers: Trailer 1 including the heat recovery and digestate separation while Trailer 2 performs the nutrient recovery and the antibiotics removal. The P&I diagram of the overall NOMAD process (Trailer 1 & 2) were developed along with CAD drawing and arrangement of the components, and the procurement phase of the main process components already started. Both trailers were acquired and the construction of the “mobile plant” started including the integration of components: pasteurization tank, solid-liquid separation units, dryer, odor management system, filtration systems, etc. as well as the the heat recovery part and infrastructure to host the nutrient recovery SED and the antibiotics removal units.
The demonstration activities were planned with the operation of the NOMAD trailers in several biogas plants using digestate from different origins and undergo all regulatory authorization and operations in four different countries (UK, Greece, Italy and Malta). In all cases the products (fertilizers, soil amenders, water) produced will be field tested and assessed against regional requirements. The process key performance indicators were determined and an extensive analytical plan on the inlet and outlet streams for the mapping of the process and the characterization of the NOMAD products.
The NOMAD process intends to be a profitable business case with proven reduced environmental footprint. The business planning and life cycle analysis (LCA) has been initiated and preliminary results based on the design are available while these will be refined with data from the demonstration campaigns. In order to achieve full impact of the work undertaken, the project’s communication and dissemination plan was developed, while the exploitation strategy is being devised. Different channels of communication for the dissemination of the project were mobilized and the setting up of the stakeholders’ workshops was organized.
The successful completion of the NOMAD project will form the grounds for fostering a vibrant, widely replicable organic circular economy model, enabling the challenging, urban AD market by managing surplus digestate in an environment with limited space for food production and capturing the full value of organic wastes across catchment areas for local reuse.
NOMAD´s smart, mobile digestate technology could be key to reducing the overall cost, complexity and footprint of small biogas plants, creating new revenue streams and improving their economic viability. For the end user, the project will deliver a robust solution that reduces the risks and challenges associated with digestate (e.g. reduction of pasteurization cost, reduction of digestate storage and disposal needs). Successful commercialization of the technology could create competitive advantages for participating businesses and facilitate a new disruptive approach that would strengthen local economic and environmental resilience. With a short payback period, the technology will boost circular bio-economies by expanding enterprise opportunities (e.g. adding value to streams and by-products that were otherwise considered as wastes). It is expected that circular resource management will be enhanced (e.g. reduction fertiliser, soil amender and water costs, by recovering them as by-products from waste) and sustainable agricultural practices (e.g. elimination of the negative environmental and climate impacts of digestate use on land) will create prosperity and quality employment in rural and urban areas.
The NOMAD process