Phosphorus scarcity may become a major challenge in the future. As a nutrient it is an essential factor in plant growth and therefore an important element of food production for a growing global population. Naturally occurring phosphorus which can be mined for fertiliser is a limited resource in danger of being exhausted.
Phosphorus recycling and new ways of mining it have therefore become areas receiving global attention. In cooperation with Danish water authority, Aarhus Water and others, Grundfos is participating in a project at Åby treatment plant in Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city. The project involves testing technologies to extract phosphorus from wastewater. The plant was opened at the end of November 2013 in a ceremony attended by the Danish Minister for the Environment, Ida Auken.
"The Danish Government wants a greener Denmark. This project is an example of what green transition is all about. We develop solutions to environmental problems while also creating new products which can generate income in the future. Phosphorus discharge into the aquatic environment is not only a challenge in Denmark. It is a global problem, so there are great benefits in finding a method to solve it," said the Minister.
Problem and opportunity
Aarhus Water has worked on removing phosphorus from wastewater since 2011. The scarce element has the unfortunate side-effect of forming deposits in pipes and causing blockages.When the water utility discovered that a group in Oregon USA had made good progress on the work of phosphorus recycling, the project gained speed.
"Extracting phosphorus from wastewater holds great potential. From our perspective, we can solve a problem and exploit an opportunity at the same time. We can avoid blockages in our pipes while extracting a valuable resource with commercial value - utilising a scarce resource in a sustainable manner at the same time," says Claus Homann, Department Manager at Aarhus Vand. He believes the plant in Åby can be developed to extract 60% of the phosphorus from wastewater.
Building on existing technology
Grundfos is one of the partners in the project, supplying highly specialised components for phosphorus extraction in the form of dosing pumps, booster systems and control systems for the wastewater plant."We are interested in seeing how our solutions can play a role in the project. We already have these technologies, so what we are looking at is a different way of applying them. We will start by testing how it all works and then make a decision as to whether this is something we will continue to pursue," says Per Krøyer Kristensen, Business Development Manager at Grundfos.
Facts about the partnership
In addition to Aarhus Water and Grundfos, the other partners are Herning Water, Horsens Water, the Danish Knowledge Centre for Agriculture and consultants, Norconsult.
The partnership was formed in January 2013.