Pioneering work to advance wastewater treatment wins Royal Society innovation award
A revolutionary wastewater treatment process to alleviate water scarcity while being self-sustainable has been awarded the £250,000 Brian Mercer Award for Innovation from the Royal Society. The process will be demonstrated on large scale by a team comprised of Imperial College, Anglian Water and Black & Veatch, a leading engineering, consulting and construction company.
Professor David Stuckey at Imperial College London pioneered laboratory studies into wastewater treatment using submerged anaerobic membrane bioreactors (SAMBR). Black & Veatch sponsored an independent verification of the SAMBR process at Cranfield University. The study confirmed that the low-footprint anaerobic process can achieve a high-quality effluent suitable for wastewater reuse, with a positive net energy yield and very low sludge production. Anaerobic membrane bioreactors have previously only been used for industrial wastewater treatment with concentrated and warm effluents. The Black & Veatch-sponsored initiative fills a critical need in wastewater reclamation to demonstrate the feasibility of SAMBR in municipal applications for dilute effluents at ambient temperatures.
As considerable expenditure is required to develop a full-scale 50-million-cubic-meters of water per day (50m3) SAMBR prototype, the award fosters a collaborative partnership comprising Imperial College, Anglian Water and Black & Veatch, along with membrane suppliers GE-Zenon, Asahi, Norit and Siemens-Memcor. Together, they will develop a field-scale domestic SAMBR plant that will recycle wastewater, will produce enough energy to power itself and, with just a few hours of detention time, will be much smaller than traditional plants.
The engineering team leader, Frank Rogalla of Black & Veatch, commented, “We feel very privileged to participate during the proposed design, implementation and evaluation of the SAMBR reactor – this advanced treatment system shows worldwide potential for long-term sustainability, allowing water reuse while offering energy self sufficiency.” According to Sir Peter Williams, Vice-President of the Royal Society: “Water is going to become an ever more scarce resource as global temperatures rise. It is also becoming more expensive to treat as energy costs go up. If this new system is successful it could radically change the way water is managed.”
Detailed engineering drawings for the large-scale SAMBR plant will be produced with the help of Black & Veatch and the membrane suppliers. Anglian Water will host the 50m3 plant at its Water Innovation Center in Cambridge. In parallel with the field work, ongoing laboratory research will further develop the SAMBR system. The project partners anticipate the SAMBR will become a cornerstone process in the wastewater industry, attracting a considerable market within the environment industry globally.