Pioneer_STP - The Potential of Innovative Technologies to Improve Sustainability of Sewage Treatment Plants

Project presentation

Juan Lema 

Juan M. Lema

Projects  Partner and Institution:

Universiti of Santiago de Compostela
University of Verona
Technical University of Denmark
Royal Institute of Technology
FCC Aqualia

Key words: innovative technologies; integration; wastwater treatment; greenhouse; gases; energy; nutrients; optimization; plant-wide modelling

Pioneer_STP addresses the challenges related to wastewater treatment (WWT) from a holistic perspective. Concepts such as resource recovery, sludge management, energy balance optimization, new effluent quality requirements (Emerging Pollutants, EP) and emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are compulsory to drive the European water sector to be more innovative, productive and competitive. The project aims at assessing the impact of the integration of (4) innovative Unit Technological Solutions (UTS) (comprising in total 9 technologies), nowadays developed at lab- or pilot-scale, targeted to energy recovery and nutrients removal/recovery, into a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). Each UTS will be characterised not only in terms of efficiency but also concerning their environmental (LCA, Risk), economic (LCC) and energetic impacts.

Pioneer _STP considers the cross effects (positive and negative) between the different units, in a strategy that goes beyond a focus on a particular unit to a global focus (the entire STP). A number of different layouts including the innovative units will be assessed under a multi-criteria analysis by using a superstructure-based optimization framework. The optimal process design solutions (novel plant flow schemes) will be further optimized by using a dynamic plant wide modelling platform (PWM). The consortium includes 5 skilled teams from Denmark, Italy, Spain and Sweden, from Academy and Industry, providing a multi-disciplinary approach: Development and full Characterisation of each UTS for Wastewater (Aqualia, KTH, USC), Centrate (UNIVR, Aqualia) and Sludge treatment (USC), Life Cycle and Risk Assessment (USC), Life Cycle Costs Assessment (DTU, USC) and Superstructure-based optimization and Simulation of mass and energy fluxes in the water, sludge and gas streams by means of PWM (DTU). Cooperation is enhanced by a mobility plan focusing on complementary skills. Research results can be transferred in a relative short time period to full scale STPs, an important added value for the stakeholders that support this proposal, including Companies and Water Authorities.

Project structure

Pioneer WP


The work plan comprises 8 Work Packages (WPs), being 4 of them devoted to the development of innovative wastewater and sludge treatment units:

  • Main stream OM removal is addressed in WP2, by means of: Upstream concentration, A-stage and environmental temperature Anaerobic reactors.
  • Enhanced Sludge treatment (WP3) comprises thermal pre-treatment and AD of the sludges with the aim of enhancing energy recovery in the STP.
  • Nitrogen removal in the mainstream is developed in WP4 including processes based on Granular anammox and IFAS anammox.
  • In WP5, P and N removal in the centrate from sludge AD is evaluated by means of via nitrite N removal and P hyper-accumulation and Anammox based processes followed by struvite precipitation.
  • The processes will be modelled in WP6. Superstructure based optimization will allow identifying the most sustainable flow sheets integrating these new processes. A plant-wide platform will allow dynamic simulation and further optimization of the integral STP schemes to get a full insight on the mass, energy and cost balances.
  • In order to compare and evaluate the different alternatives proposed, a holistic assessment will be performed (WP7), taking into account the risks of discharging the effluents (EPs), emitting GHGs and disposing the sludges, the economic implications (LCC) and the environmental impacts (LCA).

The scientific-technological deliverables include scientific, technical and status papers, congress communications, patent applications and other dissemination media. The most outstanding technological output of this proposal is that the whole set of information gathered will be integrated in a superstructure coupled with a database as a decision support tool for the analysis and screening of novel WWT processes under a holistic paradigm, including cross-cutting issues as aspects related to the quality of life (disposal of sludge, emissions of GHGs, water quality, EPs), as well as to the overall efficiencies (i.e. costs, impact on economy). In line with the commitment of JPI to fund problem-solving research leading to the development of market-oriented solutions, the project Pioneer_STP will provide solutions for different scenarios (low footprint, nutrient removal, energy savings, enhanced P removal, water reuse, sludge stabilization) consisting of the best practice models (i.e. that minimize impacts, risks and costs). The mobility plan proposed is intended to promote unique high standard training of young researchers.  

References coordinator and  leaders of  each WP:

WP1, WP3: Juan M. Lema
WP2: David Bolzonella
WP4: Elzbieta Plaza
WP5: Jose R. Vazquez-Padin
WP6: Gürkan Sin
WP7: M. Teresa Moreira

Contact Point for  Communication/Dissemination activities:

Sonia Suarez

Contact Point for Open Data/Open Access activities:

Sonia Suarez

Picture of the research team:

 Pioneer Team

Water JPI key achievements 2011-2016

This publication presents the ten main goals achieved by the initiative till now.



Open Data & Open Access
Water JPI Interface

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