The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office’s (AMO’s) Water Resource Recovery Prize challenged multidisciplinary teams to present innovative solutions for resource recovery at small- to medium-sized water treatment facilities. To help lower the cost of treatment by extracting additional value from wastewater, the prize sought innovative ideas to increase resource recovery from municipal wastewater treatment plants across the United States.
The Water Resource Recovery Prize was launched to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water. This multiphase competition challenged interdisciplinary teams to innovate cost-effective, innovative water treatment technology system configurations and business plans that:
- Accelerate the recovery of valuable resources.
- Lower the ultimate cost of small- to medium-sized water resource recovery facilities.
Innovative teams partnered with small- to medium-sized water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) to compete for up to $1 million in cash prizes by developing ideas that could provide potential wastewater treatment recovery strategies for wastewater treatment facilities.
The prize consisted of two phases. Phase 1 challenged teams to submit two high-level facility engineering schematics, a business case demonstrating improvement relative to the existing baseline conditions, and a technical description validating the potential for cost-effectiveness and viability of the resource recovery plan. In Phase 2, selected teams from Phase 1 provided a more detailed plan for financing and construction, supported by quantitative analysis and/or modeling
UP TO $1 MILLION IN CASH PRIZES
This prize distributed a total of up to $1 million of combined cash prizes. Ten winners selected in Phase 1 each received a $50,000 cash prize, while two winners selected in Phase 2 received $250,000 in cash prizes.
The grand prize winners are:
• SoMax BioEnergy: The Borough of Phoenixville Wastewater Treatment Plant, in partnership with SoMax BioEnergy, is implementing Hydrothermal Carbonization as a means of biomass conversion and resource recovery. The Borough utilizes biosolids and local food wastes to efficiently create renewable energy that powers their wastewater treatment and creates excess energy that will be used to reach their goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
• Genifuel Not Waste: The project involves operation of a Hydrothermal Processing system to recover energy in wastewater solids as renewable oil and natural gas. The proposed project will be located at the Anacortes Wastewater Treatment Plant in Anacortes, Washington. The proposed system would recover over 90 percent of the carbon in the sludge stream to produce approximately three barrels of 100 percent renewable biocrude per day for subsequent downstream conversion into drop-in fuels, and a gas product which can be either used as-is or upgraded for direct injection into a natural gas pipeline.
The purpose of this prize was to encourage teams of wastewater treatment plants, engineering and design firms, technology developers, resource customers, and others to develop holistic resource recovery plans for their respective wastewater treatment systems.
The proposed solutions represented innovations that could move the sector of small- and medium-sized WRRFs beyond their current technological status while addressing these challenges:
- Financial stress on municipal budgets. WRRFs purchase about $2 billion of electricity each year and face more than $200 billion in future capital investment needs to meet water quality objectives.
- Cost of disposal of residual biosolids. By turning recoverable resources into marketable products, WRRFs can create new revenue streams for upgrading water treatment infrastructure, reducing nutrient pollution, and providing sources of alternative water supplies.
- Increasing the value of recoverable resources to offset the cost of recovery. Recoverable resources include energy that can be used on-site or sold, nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen that can be used as fertilizer, and clean water that can be reused for agricultural, industrial, and drinking water purposes.
- Advancing system-level energy efficiency. Recovering energy from wastewater reduces the amount of grid electricity required to operate the wastewater treatment plant. Recovered water can also offer a substitute for water sources with a higher level of embedded energy for industrial, agricultural, and municipal use. Moreover, recovered nutrients can be less energy-intensive substitutes for fertilizer on agricultural land.