June/July 2019 / May 2019 / March/April 2019 / February 2019 / December/January 2019 / November 2018 / October 2018 / September 2018 / July/August 2018 / May/June 2018 / March/April 2018 / February 2018 / December/January 2018 / November 2017 / October 2017 / August/September 2017 / June/July 2017 / May 2017 / March/April / February 2017 / December/January 2016 / November 2016 / October 2016 / September 2016 / July/August 2016 / May/June 2016 / March/April 2016 / February 2016 / December/January 2016 / November 2015 / October 2015 / August/September 2015 / June/July 2015 / / March/April 2015l / February 2015/ December/January 2015 / November 2014 / October 2014 / August/September 2014 / June/July 2014 / May 2014 / March/April 2014 / February 2014 / December/January 2014 / November 2013 / October 2013 / August/September 2013 / June/July 2013 / April/May 2013 / February/March 2013 / December/January 2013 / November 2012 / / September 2012 / July/August 2012 / June 2012 / April/May 2012 February/March 2012 / December/January 2011 / November 2011 / September 2011 / July/August 2011 / June 2011
By Tony Kryzanowski
Phosphorus, a fertilizer essential for plant growth, is a depleting, finite, natural resource derived from relatively few mines in the world. It’s estimated that 16 per cent of all mined phosphorus ends up in wastewater treatment plants.
Even though wastewater is treated to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus it contains, most of these nutrients end up being dispersed in the environment and not recovered.
Release of these nutrients into water bodies—whether from municipal wastewater or surface runoff of fertilizer and animal manure in farming operations—stimulates extensive plant growth such as blue-green algae, which may produce animal toxins and lead to fish death.
So, finding economical ways to recover more of these nutrients from wastewater will help ensure a sustainable supply of fertilizer for food production and reduce their negative impact on water resources.
Alberta Innovates (AI) is investing in research at the University of Alberta under the direction of Dr. Yang Liu, a professor in the Environmental Engineering Department who holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Urban Water Development and the Canada Research Chair in Future Community Water Services. Liu’s team has proven that adding small amounts of wood-derived lignin as part of the wastewater treatment process significantly improves the recovery of both phosphorus and nitrogen in a form known as struvite.
Researchers have shown that by adding only 0.1 gram of lignin per litre of wastewater as part of the treatment process, it is possible to achieve phosphorus recovery in the range of 98 per cent at a lower cost compared to less than 80 per cent recovery using conventional systems. In addition to its ability to improve recovery of fertilizers from wastewater, lignin is also a valuable soil amendment.
Lignin is a bioproduct and a byproduct of wood pulp manufacturing. The lignin used in this research project was sourced from the lignin recovery plant attached to West Fraser’s pulp mill in Hinton, Alberta, which has also received AI funding.
Having proven their concept, U of A researchers are now devising a process for lignin additive and nutrient recovery, which they hope to have developed within two years.
The researchers are also starting to evaluate how wood-derived cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) might assist in nutrient recovery from wastewater. The CNC is manufactured at a pilot plant located at InnoTech Alberta, an applied research subsidiary of Alberta Innovates.
In total, AI has provided $350,000 through its Alberta Bio Future research and innovation funding program toward these nutrient recovery research projects involving lignin and CNC.
“Dr. Liu’s research translates into real environmental solutions for local businesses and municipalities. The City of Devon is considering resource-recovery municipal wastewater alternatives, and the City of St. Albert and Sturgeon County are developing a community water service resource recovery demonstration site,” says Patrick Guidera, Director of Forest Technology at Alberta Innovates.
“Her work also provides a link to the forest sector and adds value to lignin, a previously undervalued waste stream in forestry.”
The current method for recovering nutrients from wastewater is a precipitation process that results in a fertilizer called struvite.
“It is very expensive to operate this type of process to adjust the pH so that it is high enough for the struvite to precipitate out,” says Liu.
The U of A researchers found that lignin aids in struvite crystal formation. And because lignin is already high in pH, it eliminates the need to adjust the pH of wastewater. Lignin, a natural compound in trees, is safe to use and there is also an unlimited supply as a renewable resource.
Liu says the economics of the recovery process still need to be studied in more detail, and the cost of lignin and phosphorus must be considered as part of the discussion. At present, the best economic scenario could be the use of lignin-derived struvite as a fertilizer in crop production close to where it is manufactured, perhaps by a municipal wastewater treatment plant, to save on transportation costs.
For more information about these nutrient recovery research projects involving lignin and CNC, contact Yang Liu at email@example.com and for more information about the Alberta Bio Future program, contact Julia Necheff at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tony Kryzanowski
The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) recently tested a variety of on-site and portable wood processors that could be used to produce custom pre-processed biomass feedstock captured from a variety of sources for use by communities—particularly in remote locations—and industry to generate both heat and power.
This study is part of CWFC’s mandate to develop/evaluate effective biomass feedstock production systems, and was conducted in partnership with FPInnovations, CANMET, Alberta Innovates, and Drayton Valley, Alberta’s Biomass Innovation Inc.
Testing was conducted in two locations.
The first was at CWFC’s Ellerslie Short Rotation Woody Crop Technical Development site in Edmonton as part of its ongoing end-of-lifecycle research program.
Small diameter mixed woods located on private woodlots were also processed and evaluated in Nova Scotia using a large-scale system.
Three wood processors were evaluated, representing a range of technology with varying degrees of chip size production control and volume throughput. This provides potential adopters with a selection of production scale and practical options, so they can select one that is a good fit for their particular needs.