THERBIOR: Thermal energy recovery from a novel sequencing batch biofilter granular reactor

Project website:

Project presentation: THERBIOR

 francisco_garrido.jpg Coordinator: Francisco Javier Batlles Garrido (University of Almeria: UAL)
Projects  Partner and Institution:
Claudio Di Iaconi (CNR-IRSA National Research Council-Water Research Institute:;
Ivan Munoz (2.0.-LCA Consultants:;
Inaki Acasuso Perez (Hedera Helix Ingenieria y Biotecnologia S.L.:;

Key words: municipal sewage treatment; pilot plant; water's energy re-use; off-grid water source heat pump

Abstract:THERBIOR focuses on the development, implementation and diffusion of technologies to improve energy efficiency in wastewater treatment plants using a solar-assisted heat pump (HP) system, applicable Europe-wide but centred on the Mediterranean region. The THERBIOR project aims to provide solution for the tourism sector, which is characterised by intense seasonal water demand and wastewater discharge. The integration of a highly efficient heat exchanger coupled to a HP with a pioneering Sequencing Batch Biofilter Granular Reactor (SBBGR) already installed in the Water Research Institute (CNR-IRSA, Italy), which creates new value through reuse and repurposing. This technology may help to produce benefits for local populations in the form of wastewater management, giving people access to clean water, and thus contributing to societal well-being through better human health as a result of better water quality. Projections for future climate change point to increasing resource depletion and water scarcity, which will have a serious socio-economic and environmental impact. Current global changes demand innovative practices to minimise the risks associated with water distribution and storage facilities in urban areas. Consequently, efforts are needed to strengthen public participation and imbue a sense of social responsibility concerning water and energy use, especially regarding freshwater resources, and adapting to the above-mentioned threats. Innovative technologies are required by the water industry to develop products and services fuelling the European economy. The main goal is to reuse the heat from the novel SBBGR reactor into an air conditioning system, backed up by storage based on Phase Change Materials, capable of covering the heating/cooling and domestic hot water demand of an experimental test laboratory; this will be constructed during the project at the CNR-IRSA site. After obtaining satisfactory results from the developed prototype, we will analyse this innovative application’s viability for incorporation into Almeria’s (Spain) and Bari’s (Italy) tourist facility network. Our main goal will be to evaluate how much energy we can gain from a specific urban wastewater network to reduce energy consumption (coming from fossil fuels) for cooling/heating purposes in tourist buildings located in the cities. THERBIOR comprises a consortium of 4 European organisations from Spain, Italy and Denmark, combining a wide range of technical, institutional and business expertise. THERBIOR aims to bring together all the specialists required to support and promote a novel technological solution to improve urban wastewater treatment process efficiency with an emphasis on model application under the European Water and Energy Directives. The THERBIOR objectives are fully in-line with the Water Works 2014 call topics for research and innovation - to develop technological solutions and services. They explicitly address the content and expected impact of the topics regarding improvements in water treatment, reuse, recycling and desalination. The scientific and technical objectives are further explained below, grouped under four project goals:

  1. Monitoring SBBGR system performances.
  2. The development and demonstration of a fully off-grid, solar-assisted HP coupled to the novel SBBGR reactor as an innovative technological strategy to fight energy efficiency problems in the WWTPs and to provide next-generation tools for end-users and stakeholders to manage water quality in tourist area.
  3. Demonstrating the potential of a fully off-grid, solar-assisted cooling/heating system for buildings coupled to a wastewater system - located in the tourist facilities network of the consortium partners’ cities - and their potential replication.
  4. Application of LCA and LCC analysis as instruments for policy support with the aim of designing and implementing adequate water quality and climate change abatement strategies and practices.

Project structure: Given the multidisciplinary nature of this proposal, which includes wastewater treatment activities, thermodynamics, mechanics and management, the objective when forming this consortium was to employ experts from all these complimentary fields to achieve breakthrough results within the project timeframe. The THERBIOR consortium consists of four partners from three EU countries, namely Spain, Italy and Denmark. The industrial sector is represented through the participation of two SMEs, namely HEDERA HELIX INGENIERIA Y BIOTECNOLOGIA and 2.-0 LCA CONSULTANTS. The academic sector is represented by two ALMERIA UNIVERSITY (UAL) departments (APPLIED PHYSICS AND CHEMISTRY and THE SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT) and one research group from the WATER RESEARCH INSTITUTE (IRSA-CNR). The partners have clearly complementary roles in different scientific disciplines including water treatment, thermodynamics, renewable energy, mechanics, environmental and business performance. This leads to strong interaction between the partners which will enhance their knowledge and experience of working together in this particular area. Each partner interacts with three others in the framework of different Work Packages (WPs) and with very well-defined collaboration outcomes. The THERBIOR consortium has never worked together as a whole. The beneficial combination of improved awareness, mutual learning processes and the shared responsibility of civil society and stakeholders are the key to ensuring and implementing successful adaptation strategies, leading to yet more renewable energy-based solutions and improved water quality in our cities. Developing and introducing an innovative, SCHW system to market will produce water and energy management benefits for local populations. The overall aim of THERBIOR is to further underpin our scientific understanding of urban waste water problems and to provide next-generation tools for end-users and stakeholders to manage water quality in tourist areas.

Implementation: The project’s program is quite challenging since it is based on a holistic approach, looking at the different aspects which make THERBIOR a multi-disciplinary project. To accomplish the project goals in the given timeframe, specific advancements in diverse areas are needed. For this reason, the project work plan covers a 2-year period and is carefully split into different closely-interacting technical WPs, each executed by partners with complimentary expertise and clearly-defined objectives, together with certain alternative plans:
WP0: Coordination and project management (WP Leader: UAL)
This task is active throughout the project’s life. The leaders of each work package will supervise that all the tasks in each subproject are carried out as planned. The various types of meetings required for project coordination are: • Coordination meetings: one kick-off meeting and then one each semester. • Subgroup meetings to develop tasks: as often as needed. Groups involved: All of them. Task life: 24 months. Deliverables: D0.1: First annual report (M12); D0.2: Second annual report (M24). Milestones: M0.1: Kick-off meeting (M1); M0.2: 1st semester meeting (M6); M0.3: 2nd semester meeting (M12); M0.4: 3rd semester meeting (M18); M0.5: 4th semester meeting (M24).
WP1: Monitoring SBBGR system performance and key parameters for thermal recovery feasibility (WP Leader: CNR)
SBBGR performance will be evaluated in terms of mean value by measuring, several typical gross parameters such as: COD, BOD, TSS, VSS, N-NH4, pH, conductivity, DOC, chlorides as well wastewater temperature fluctuations within the WWT process will be constantly monitored. Groups involved: CNR, UAL. Task life: 24 months. Deliverables: D1.1: Report on daily and seasonal temperature trends and SBBGR reactor efficiency (M12); D1.2: Report on the energy balance and a thermal energy recovery rate evaluation (M12); D1.3: Report of installation site documents and demanded expertise (M23). Milestones: M1.1: Measurement data and observations collected (M12). M1.2: Definition of a modelling framework for monitoring the SBBGR reactor integrated with a SCHW system (M23).
WP2: Prototype design (WP Leader: Hedera-Helix).
Hedera will develop the prototype of the SHP that will be coupled to the THEx submersed in the SBBGR reactor. These heat exchanger will operate throughout the year, working in tandem with the developed SHP and improving the energy efficiency of the SBBGR reactor. Additionally, two novel short-term thermal energy storage units will be installed, in the form of the PCMs, operating at -3°C and 50°C, respectively, and coupled to the prototype HP. In this way, we ensure year-round coverage of the ETL’s CH demand. Using the PV modules as the main energy source to supply SHP will allow operation with no additional fuel deliveries or batteries. The operation of the SCHW system will be controlled completely automatically, managing all key monitoring variables, choosing the best system control settings, matching the instantaneous energy production of the PV modules to the SHP’s power needs and allowing the surplus energy to be accumulated in the form of PCM wherever possible. Throughout the project the cost reduction during fabrication and installation will also be presented to facilitate the implementation of these systems. Groups involved: Hedera-Helix, UAL, CNR. Task life: 24 months. Deliverables: D2.1: Report on PV selection and assembly design strategy (M2); D2.2: Technology selection of the THEx submersed in the SBBGR reactor (M4); D2.3: Report on PCM selection strategy (M6); D2.4: Report on the technology selected for the SCHW system (M6); D2.5: Description of the SCHW pilot plant’s final design (M10). Milestones: M2: List of performance requirements, optimization of the pilot plant (M24).
WP3: Feasibility study (WP Leader: UAL)
The feasibility study will be assessed in terms of its energy savings, initial costs, operating costs, payback period and environmental performance. Particular emphasis will be paid to a) applying ANN techniques to predict the performance of the studied prototype SCHW systems and b) exergy analyses of this system whether it is well-suited to efficiently manage energy resources, thus helping to find the irreversibilities of each SCHW system’s components this will allow the prediction of the SCHW system’s exergetic performance from the very beginning of the design process. To ensure the successful dissemination of this innovative eco-design, UAL will lead the elaboration of a business model which systemically evaluates the implementation of SCHW system, permitting its adoption not only in the Mediterranean regions but across the EU as a whole. During WP3, Hedera, which is responsible for the development of the SHP prototype, will provide information about the optimal specifications from the exergetic design point of view. Those findings, along with the experimental results from WP1, will be the basis for demonstrating the thermodynamic behavior of the studied SCHW system. Groups involved: UAL. Task life: 12 months. Deliverables: D3.1: Exergy models of the SCHW pilot plant (M22); D3.2: List of the irreversibilities of each SCHW system’s components (M22); D3.3: ANN models of the SCHW pilot plant’s performance (M24). Milestones: M3.1: Viability study of the investment and payback period (M24). M3.2: Business model of the SCHW system, permitting its adoption Europe-wide (M24).
WP4: LCA and LCC analysis” (Leader: 2.-0. LCA).
LCA and LCC are powerful tools to identify the potential environmental trade-offs, weaknesses and the direct and indirect effects on the environment and the economy. The environmental impact indicators assessed will include, amongst others, greenhouse-gas emissions, aquatic ecotoxicity, aquatic eutrophication, and the use of freshwater resources. A special focus will be put on primary energy demand, as this is a key factor in the resulting environmental impacts and economic costs of the proposed solution. The LCC will assess the economic impacts of the proposed solution, using consistent system boundaries with an ISO 14040–compliant LCA. The assessment will include all costs incurred by producers, ownership costs of technology users, and the real costs imposed on other affected stakeholders. Costs and benefits will be expressed in monetary units, using metrics such as the net present value (NPV). In the NPV, it will be possible to include not only the financial costs, but also the ‘external’ costs measured with the LCA; that is, the social costs of pollution and use of natural resources, expressed in monetary units. Groups involved: 2.-0. LCA, UAL. Task life: 12 months. Deliverables: D4.1: LCA and LCC report including Eco-design recommendations in order to further reduce the environmental impact of the solutions proposed (M24).
WP5: Dissemination (WP Leader: UAL)
Dissemination and communication (D&C) is a core activity in THERBIOR as it is crucial for further market exploitation and valorization. It also paves the way for further commercial and business activities after the project. The specific objective of the project’s communication D&C activities will aim to guarantee professional and public coverage of the project results and achievements, benefits and potential deployment by employing a wide variety of distribution channels. The project’s communication/dissemination activities will aim to: - develop a D&C Plan to set up and manage an effective strategy to guarantee the scientific and public coverage of the project results; - support optimal conditions and solutions to exploit project outcomes by consolidating project visibility among stakeholders at the EU level, and towards the general public, to enhance awareness via specific media communication packages ranging from the project website to scientific articles and social media. Groups involved: All groups. Task life: 24 months. Deliverables: D5.1: Dissemination plan (updates at M6, M12, M18, M24); D5.2: Public information portal (M3); D.5.3. International conferences and journal papers (M24); Milestones: M5.1: Dissemination plan v.1.0 (M3); M5.2: Project website (M6); M5.3: All publication goals achieved (M24).

The outcomes expected at the end of the first year, related to the activities undertaken, can be summarized as follows:
D0.1. Interim Report (Month 12), collecting the main research outcomes after 12 months of work; D1.1. Report on daily and seasonal temperatures trends and SBBGR reactor efficiency (M12); D1.2. Report on the energy balance and thermal energy recovery rate evaluation (M12); D2.1. Report on the PV selection and assembly design strategy (Month 2); D2.2. Selection of the efficient THEx technology submersed in the SBBGR reactor (Month 4); D2.3. Report on the PCM selection strategy (Month 6); D2.4. Report on the technology selection for the SCHW system (Month 6); D2.5. Description of the SCHW pilot plant’s final design (Month 10); D5.1. Dissemination plan (updates at Months 6, 12, 18); D5.2. Public information portal (Month 3). 
The research will be concluded when the purposes stated in the second year of activities are achieved.
The following Ds and Ms must be produced:
D0.2. Final Report (Month 24); D1.3. Report of installation site documents and demanded expertise (Month 24); D3.1. SCHW pilot plant exergy models (Month 22); D3.2. List of the irreversibilities of each SCHW system’s components (Month 22); D3.3. ANN models of the SCHW pilot plant’s performance (Month 24); D4.1. LCA and LCC report including Eco-design recommendations in order to further reduce the environmental impact of the solutions proposed (Month 24); D5.1. Dissemination plan (updates at Month 24); D5.3. International conferences and journal papers (Month 24).

References coordinator and  leaders of  each WP:
WP0: Coordination and project management (WP Leader: UAL: Francisco Javier Batlles Garrido)
WP1: Monitoring SBBGR system performance and key parameters for thermal recovery feasibility (WP Leader: CNR-IRSA: Claudio Di Iaconi)
WP2: Prototype design (WP Leader: Hedera-Helix: Iñaki Acasuso Perez).
WP3: Feasibility study (WP Leader: UAL: Francisco Javier Batlles Garrido)
WP4: LCA and LCC analysis” (WP Leader: 2.-0. LCA Consultants: Ivan Muñoz).
WP5: Dissemination (WP Leader: UAL: Javier Martinez del Rio)

Contact Point for  Communication/Dissemination activities:
Javier Martinez del Rio (UAL), Sabina Rosiek Pawlowska (UAL), Claudio Di Iaconi (CNR-IRSA), Ivan Muñoz (2.-0. LCA Consultants), Iñaki Acasuso Perez (Hedera-Helix)

Contact Point for Open Data/Open Access activities:
Javier Martinez del Rio (UAL), Sabina Rosiek Pawlowska (UAL), Claudio Di Iaconi (CNR-IRSA), Ivan Muñoz (2.-0. LCA Consultants)


Results of the project: Data and resources


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published on 2016/07/27 10:55:00 GMT+1 last modified 2019-08-27T15:47:11+01:00