Brussels, 17 Nov 2005
The European Commission is to boost the development of novel processes for municipal wastewater treatment by funding two new projects, 'AMEDEUS' and 'EUROMBRA', under the 'sustainable development, global change and ecosystems' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
Against a background of increasing scarcity of clean, safe, fresh water, described as the 'single greatest threat to health, the environment and global food security', the availability of a sufficient quantity and quality of water is critical to the sustainable development of any society. The protection of water resources in the European Union has been encouraged through the Water Framework Directive (WFD, which provides an integrated water resource management policy. Wastewater treatment is an important aspect of this strategy: efficient, cost effective treatment processes are needed in order to return wastewater into the hydrological cycle without any detrimental effects.
The goal of these two new projects is to meet this challenge by carrying out research and development into membrane activated sludge technology, commonly referred to as a membrane bioreactor (MBR). This recent innovation is increasingly being implemented to purify municipal wastewater, and is considered a key technology for municipal wastewater purification in the future as it is capable of delivering a hygienically pure effluent whilst exhibiting very high operational reliability.
Compared to conventional technologies, the MBR enables complete disinfection of the treated water, and is thought to lead to superior elimination of trace substances and emerging pollutants. However, even with those submerged membranes that offer the lowest costs, the MBR technology remains more expensive than conventional processes. In addition, the European MBR market is currently dominated by two non-European producers, despite many initiatives to develop local MBR filtration systems.
AMEDEUS and EUROMBRA, which will be carried out in close cooperation, both received 3 million euro in EU funding and were launched in October for a period of three years. The two separate consortia gather 25 European universities, research centres, enterprises and MBR plant operators, as well as one South African and two Australian universities.
Together the projects aim to reduce both the capital and operational costs of MBR technology in Europe in order to increase its competitiveness with respect to conventional technologies; increase the market share of European companies in MBR plants, both in the EU and worldwide; facilitate the implementation of the European directives on wastewater treatment and bathing waters, as well as increasing the potential for non-potable reuse of treated effluent.
More specifically, AMEDEUS (accelerate membrane development for urban sewage purification) will focus on accelerating the development of competitive European MBR filtration technologies and increasing their acceptance through decreased capital and operation costs. The project will target two main European markets for upgrading to MBR technology: small plants (semi-central, 50 to 2,000 population equivalent), and medium-sized plants (central, up to 100.000 population equivalent).
Within AMEDEUS, the development of new MBR systems will be carried out by a consortium composed of 12 partners - five SMEs proposing novel concepts of low-cost and high-performance filtration systems, two end-users, three non-profit institutions and two universities, all of them well versed in MBR research. The partners will investigate solutions for reducing operational costs such as fouling control, membrane cleaning optimisation, aeration decrease, and capital costs through improved implementation of membrane bioreactor process.
Furthermore, an analysis of the potential for standardisation will be carried out, and technology transfer efforts towards Southern and Eastern Europe will be organised in order to facilitate the penetration of these new markets. According to the consortium, AMEDEUS will achieve concrete and realistic technological breakthroughs for MBR technology, normalise the use of this technology for municipal wastewater treatment, and improve the competitiveness of the MBR market in Europe.
The main objective of EUROMBRA, meanwhile, is to develop cost-effective, sustainable solutions for new and advanced municipal wastewater treatment based on MBR technology. This will be achieved through a multi-faceted research programme designed to address key limiting phenomena such as fouling and clogging. Key to the success of the programme, according to the project partners, will be harnessing specialist knowledge, conducting dedicated yet interlinked experiments and incorporating key aspects of both system design and operational facets, the latter encompassing hydrodynamics and mass transfer, foulant speciation and dynamic impacts.