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SMART-Plant Report Summary

Project ID: 690323
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.4.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMART-Plant (Scale-up of low-carbon footprint material recovery techniques in existing wastewater treatment plants)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2017-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The general objective of SMART-Plant (“Scale-up of low-carbon footprint material recovery techniques in existing wastewater treatment plants”) is to validate and to address to the market a portfolio of n.7 eco-innovative solutions (the SMARTechnologies) that, singularly or combined, can renovate and upgrade existing municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs).

In particular, SMART-Plant aims at reducing the energy and environmental footprint and, contemporary, at recovering valuable materials (the SMART-Products: water, cellulose, biopolymers, nutrients) that are valuable in construction, chemical and agriculture supply chain. SMART-Plant will even close the circular value chain by n.2 eco-innovative downstream demo to produce of bio-composites, P-rich compost and biomass fuels.

In addition to the demo, SMART-Plant is assessing opportunities and sustainable business models where the water utilities are engines of circular economy and the citizens (water-tariff-payers) directly benefit of the new circular approach to wastewater management.

Currently there are many barriers that hinder the application of resource recovery technologies and reuse of wastewater-originated valuable materials: relevant scale and long-term viability in real wastewater treatment plants; social and psychological barriers; lack of communication with decision makers; differences in acceptance and practice of resource recovery around the world; lack of linkage and translation from science and innovation to practice and markets; lack of linkage of developments in water industry and other industries.

SMART-Plant is contributing to overcome these barriers providing: long-term validated eco-innovative solutions for cellulose, biopolymers, nutrient and energy recovery integrated in existing wastewater treatment plants and utilities assets; an effective communication on economic and environmental benefits for water utilities, end-users and citizens; support to decision makers in the identification of legislative and regulatory barriers; cross-sectorial connections between water industry and Chemicals, Agriculture, Additive and Construction sectors.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The intense activity carried out by the project Consortium in the first 18 months was aimed to prepare and pave the way for the core validation activities (long-term viability the of SMARTechs and demonstration of the SMART-Plant circular business model), expected in the following 30 months.

Since the beginning of the project, the coordination activity (WP1) was focused on an effective management and monitoring of the project workplan and a smooth communication among the large SMART-Consortium, which includes even 11 new-comers that were participating for the first time in EU Horizon2020 actions.

Preparatory activities related to the long-term validation of the pilot and demo plants in real environment (WP2 and WP3) were successfully managed. All the 7 main-stream and side-stream SMARTechs were designed, constructed, commissioned and started up in the 6 existing medium and large municipal WWTPs located in the Netherlands, Israel, Spain, UK, Greece and Italy. All SMARTechs are currently under operation for the best integration in the existing assets. In the following 30 months the best long-term technical, environmental and economic performances will be validated even by Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) protocol.

Best available sensors and analysers for real time monitoring of energy consumptions and carbon footprint (WP4) have already been selected and installed. The SMARTechs monitoring data sheets were set-up even to feed the predictive models and simulation platforms that are under definition for optimization and upgrade of existing WWTPs. These will then be the basis leading to a decision support tool for the integration of SMARTechs in a wide range of existing WWTPs within the European and global framework. At the same time, system boundaries, scenarios and required data sheets for Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Costing analysis have been detailed.

In parallel, current landscape in terms of market and legislative barriers and opportunities was analysed in details and market scenarios and targets defined, to develop in the coming months possible realistic exploitation strategies and business plan (WP5). The local value chains for the water sector, including main stakeholder and water pricing has been studied for the relevant EU and Extra-EU countries. Simulations on the impact of local mechanisms of water pricing on SMARTechs financial implications for water companies have been performed, with estimation of Investment Return Rate in relevant scenarios.

The SMART-Plant was strategically and successfully communicated (WP6) from the very beginning to reach out to society as a whole and being perceived as project actually delivering circular economy in municipal wastewater management.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

According to the scope of the Horizon2020 Water-1-b call where SMART-Plant was funded, in only 18 months SMART-Plant has progressed beyond the state of the art by scaling up and integrating energy- and carbon-efficient technologies to recover cellulose, biopolymers, nutrients in 6 real medium and large real conventional wastewater treatment plants in Israel, Greece, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and UK.

SMART-Plant believes that water utilities can become engines for the circular economy if they overcome their widespread current scepticism to eco-innovations and resource recovery and reuse approach. Therefore, the integration and start-up of pilot and demo plants (the “SMARTechs”) in existing asset was carried out by engaging local water utility staff, that are so perceiving how resource recovery systems can gradually change the wastewater management paradigm without revolutionizing the existing asset and workload.

This joint undertake among water utility staff and innovators will continue within the long-term validation of the SMARTechs performances, that will be even validated by ETV. To the best of our knowledge, one of the SMARTechs (the SCENA system) will be one of the first to undergo the full ETV protocol.

For the first time the business models to close the recovered materials value chain were analysed with reference to different regulatory models for water tariff settings. Water price reduction has been estimated and will be considered in the social life cycle assessment, being expected to have a relevant role. The distributor model was preliminary estimated to reduce the risk of closing the value chain for the water utilities, but its impact is weaker on countries where the water tariff setting is more elastic. However, still the quality standard, regulation and legislation concerning secondary raw materials and recovered materials is the main barrier to market uptake.

The SMART-Plant identity was built and delivered from the very beginning and the communication plan has supported the public engagement in considering municipal wastewater as untapped resource and wastewater treatment plants as core site to transit from linear to circular economy in water sector.

Finally, although not clearly planned in the grant agreement, SMART-Plant is directly or indirectly supporting EU policy officers for Innovation Deal on water reuse and for the revision of UWWTD, WFD, Urban Agenda for the EU, Quality Standard for Secondary Raw Materials, etc.

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