Struvite precipitation in raw and co-digested swine slurries for nutrients recovery in batch reactors

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The release of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from agro-industrial sources is a major environmental concern. Furthermore, the scarcity of mineable P and the growing demand for food worldwide necessitate that we find an alternative P source. This study applied struvite precipitation for N-P recovery to slurries with high levels of organics and ammonia to achieve environmental protection from excessive nutrients diffusion and to generate a sustainable P source. Batch tests were carried out on raw and co-digested swine slurries to study the feasibility of struvite precipitation and the effect of several parameters, including pH, reaction time, competing ions (Ca2+, K+), total solids (TS), and alkalinity. The batch assays with raw swine slurries showed high N-P removals (up to 80%), while the anaerobic liquor returned lower recovery efficiency due to the high solids and alkali content. Struvite crystallization was detected at pH values as low as 6, and the characteristics of the recovered struvite matched those of the theoretical. Slight co-precipitation of calcium–phosphates occurred and was dependent on the Ca2+/Mg2+ ratio rather than on varying pH values. Struvite precipitation was shown to be feasible in complex matrices as agro-industrial effluents, characterized by high NH4+, alkalinity, solids and organic content, and interfering ions such as Ca2+ and K+.

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