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High performance MULTIphase Anaerobic Digester for agroindustrial wastewater treatment

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Multi-AD Feasibility (High performance MULTIphase Anaerobic Digester for agroindustrial wastewater treatment)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2018-04-30

Multi-AD system is an innovative solution based on anaerobic processes for the treatment of industrial wastewater generated in small and medium-sized Food and Drink (F&D) industries. This technology is patented by the Spanish engineering AEMA, Agua, Energía y Medioambiente Servicios integrales S.L.U. and it addresses a technological challenge for the agrifood sector: the optimisation of a high-rate anaerobic reactor to treat industrial wastewater flows lower than 1000 m3/day.

High-rate anaerobic reactors are presented as a great solution to reduce the biodegradable organic matter of industrial wastewater before water discharge to avoid rivers’ pollution. It is a high energy efficient technology because no aeration is required and the biogas generation can be used in the facilities for the recovery of renewable electricity and heat. Nowadays anaerobic reactors are only optimised for treating large wastewater volumes. However, more than 99% of the EU’s F&D industries are SMEs and do not generate large amounts of wastewater. As a result, this efficient technology is not economically affordable for them at the moment.

Currently, Multi-AD technology is in a TRL6 level: the correct performance of a prototype has been validated in a Spanish winery (relevant environment). The funding received by the European Commission has allowed us to carry out the activities needed to verify the viability of upscaling and bringing Multi-AD system to the market (TRL9).

Technically, main components of a Multi-AD anaerobic treatment unit have been defined and the prices of each component have been requested from our suppliers. The results of this study have allowed us to know the unit cost of the Multi-AD system for different reactor volumes (from 25 to 500 m3). The manufacturing and industrial distribution of Multi-AD have also been evaluated and defined depending on the customer´s location and the size of the anaerobic reactor.

Commercially, a market study has been carried out at European level. This analysis will help us to define the market gap, business opportunities and identify the future end-users of the Multi-AD system as well as the potential competitors.

Considering both technical aspects and commercial projections, a working plan has been outlined and the required resources have been identified and quantified. AEMA’s main objective is to develop the Multi-AD system at an industrial level by 2021.
The main activities developed under Phase I are summarized below:

Technical Viability Assessment:

- Definition of the different parts of the Multi-AD system at an industrial level with the objective of reducing the organic load of the influent by 90%, producing a biogas with a high content of methane (80%) and being self-sufficient in terms of energy. Specifically, the following parts have been considered: anaerobic reactor, mixing tank, instrumentation, external recirculation circuit and biogas line.
- Analysis of the advanced control system that will be integrated to fully automate the process.
- Approach of the technical validation of the first Multi-AD industrial prototype in a Spanish winery, to be conducted during both harvest and non-harvest periods. The main parameters will be monitored and the operational conditions will be analyzed to evaluate the performance of the unit.
- Definition of the Multi-AD production and installation process.

Commercial Viability Assessment:

- Analysis of the European agri-food sector and of the main characteristics of the wastewater generated in each sub-sector to determine the viability of the implementation of Multi-AD technology.
- Evaluation of the size of the market and the volume of business. Besides, other key aspects have been studies, such as: the innovation character of the EU F&D industry, total expenditure in R&D on innovation and the percentage of it allocated to technologies and processes to reduce the carbon footprint and pollution of water resources.
- Financial projections of Multi-AD commercialisation, to determine the payback period of the investment.
-Analysis of the two main markets for the implementation of Multi AD technology:
i) Beverage production sector, specifically wineries
ii) Fruit and vegetable processing sector.
In addition, other markets that may be affordable for the implementation of the Multi AD system have been explored (i.e. dairy sector).

Financial Viability Assessment:

- Calculation of the cost of a Multi-AD unit of 100 m3 on the basis of the unit cost of each component of the system according to the current prices of the AEMA´s suppliers. Estimation of the cost of the Multi-AD system depending on the volume of the reactor, from 25 to 500 m3.
- Analysis of the financing strategy foreseen both of own resources and external resources.
- Estimation of the business plan, sales and benefits for AEMA during the 5 years after the end of the project, between 2021 and 2025.
The Food & Drink (F&D) industry plays a key role in the European economy. It is the largest productive sector and it has more than 289,000 companies of which 99.1% are SMEs.

Water consumption in this sector is approximately 1.8% of total water used in Europe (excluding agriculture). The wastewater generated in these industrial processes has become one of the main sources of biodegradable organic pollution in European water basins and one of the biggest challenges that the EU must solve. To tackle this challenge among many others related to water, the EU has developed the European Water Framework Directive 2000/60 / EC (WFD).

Within this framework, Multi-AD technology is presented as a technically efficient and economically viable solution for the treatment of wastewater generated in agri-food SMEs. It is conceived and designed to be adapted to these types of industries, so that a Multi-AD unit can be installed and enhance water management. As a result, the contribution of the F&D industries to water bodies’ pollution will be reduced by up to 90%. In addition, the generation of biogas (renewable energy source) will reduce the energy consumption from fossil fuels and the carbon footprint.

Economically, during the feasibility study developed during Phase I the economic benefits of installing Multi-AD technology have been estimated and compared to conventional aerobic treatments. The results obtained showed that the investment made could be recovered in a period between 3 and 4 years.

Taking into account these benefits, Multi-AD technology has the potential of bringing important competitive advantages to European SMEs in the Food and Drink sector, by reducing energy consumption and the environmental impact of wastewater treatment.
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