988 027.06 €
TITLE: Renewable bio-hydrogen production technologies from lignocellulosic waste and sewage sludge co-fermentation
Beneficiaries: DEPURACION DE AGUAS DE MEDITERRANEO SL, AINIA, GENIA BIOENERGY SL, CONSORCI DE LA RIBERA – RIBERA CONSORTIUM.
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The overall objective of LIFE REPTES is to showcase a new circular economy model that integrates the production of biohydrogen from pre-treated lignocellulosic by-products and WWTP sludge by means of a dark fermentation process. The fermented liquid stream will be used for biogas production by employing it as a co-substrate for anaerobic digestion (AD). Therefore, LIFE REPTES will demonstrate the feasibility of a circular economy model applicable to WWTPs that can also be replicated in biogas plants for production of biohydrogen from sludge and lignocellulosic waste generated in the treatment plant environment to reduce net emissions from both the water treatment process and cultivation procedures.
The LIFE REPTES project “Renewable bio-hydrogen production technologies from lignocellulosic waste and sewage sludge co-fermentation” (GA 101074329) The overall objective of LIFE REPTES is to showcase a new circular economy model that integrates the production of biohydrogen from pre-treated lignocellulosic by-products and WWTP sludge by means of a dark fermentation process.
Spain is the second-largest rice producer in the EU (behind Italy) and generates around 423,000 tonnes of rice straw per year.
A large part of this crop is cultivated in municipalities in the vicinity of Valencia, the third-largest city of Spain, in or adjacent to the Albufera Nature Park This nature reserve contains important natural habitats, traditional agricultural lands and sites of great historical and cultural value.
The biodiversity conservation efforts in the area have earned it official recognition from the Ramsar Convention (wetlands) and it has been designated as a Special Protection Area for Birds and a Site of Community Interest.
Rice fields cover two-thirds of the 21,000 hectares of the Albufera Natural Park. While the characteristics of the crops contribute to preservation of wetlands, the harvesting process has been causing detrimental effects on the environment in the area due to the practice of burning the lignocellulosic waste (rice straw) to reduce the accumulation of solid waste in the reserve. Roughly 50,000 tonnes of rice straw are harvested annually in the vicinity of the Park, incineration of which has a significant impact on nearby urban areas at certain times of year, especially in the autumn. Burning the straw also contributes to global warming by boosting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that reach worrying levels of national and international concern. However, there seems to be no effective alternative to burning this particular biowaste. In fact, the Regional Government of Valencia has issued a resolution to reduce incineration of rice straw (Decree 98/1995 that adopts the implementing regulations of Article 57 of Act 3/1993 of 9 December on the Valencian Forest) and – despite the lack of clear alternatives for farmers – the practice will be banned to avoid the aforesaid environmental impacts.
The extraction of rice straw from the fields for alternative uses can help mitigate these problems but first, any new innovative processes need to be demonstrated in real environments.
The use of rice straw as a co-substrate in the dark fermentation process is an innovative solution to produce renewable energy by generating biohydrogen.
Hydrogen is considered to be a clean energy fuel because it does not release CO2, NOx (nitrogen oxides) or SOx (sulphur oxides) into the atmosphere during combustion.
Several projects have been carried out to address the environmental issues associated with rice straw, but they have all encountered economic and technical barriers and disadvantages in using this material for applications other than combustion. The main economic barriers are related to the high cost of extracting rice straw from the fields and storing it.
The main technical barriers to using rice straw as a substrate for bioenergy production such as biogas has been the lignocellulosic structure in the form of strands that hinders the bacteria’s biological attack and transformation of the substrate into biofuels.
Treatments like chopping the rice straw could mitigate this problem, but it causes other hydraulic issues inside the biological reactors Rice straw tends to float and form clots, clogging pipes and pumps GENIA, DAM and AINIA have been studying several innovative solutions to overcome these obstacles in recent years. Specifically, we have found that rice straw silage could be the most cost-effective and thus suitable strategy for storing rice straw and using it for bioenergy production throughout the year We have also developed innovative technology to convert rice straw into a pumpable liquid as the best complementary pre-treatment to increase energy production from the material and side-step the hydraulic problems associated with the structure of the straw in its original form in a cost-effective manner shape. The need to use other organic residues to compensate for the lack of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in the rice straw that are essential for any biological process are some of the other technical barriers we had to overcome
Huge amounts of rice straw are burned in the rice fields near the Albufera Natural Park (Spain) every year, resulting in massive emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and particulate matter that affect the quality of life of nearby populations and have a significant environmental impact. The Albufera district produces 5-6 tonnes of straw a year from each of its 14,700 cultivated hectares. Management of this biowaste has a significant economic impact on farmers when alternative techniques to burning or burying are used. This situation is duplicated every year in other regions of Europe that are major producers of lignocellulosic crops such as rice or wheat. The Albufera Nature Reserve produces around 20% of all domestic rice straw and Spain is the second-largest rice producer in the EU. Other major European rice producers include Italy and Greece while countries such as Germany and France produce different lignocellulosic residues. LIFE REPTES’ new circular-economy model will enable valorisation of rice straw plus WWTP sludge by means of renewable gas biofuel production (biohydrogen and biogas) through implementation of a combination of innovative technologies.
The most innovative and central technology of the project is the Dark Fermentation Process (DFP) to produce biohydrogen, but the technical and economic success of the model is supported by an equally innovative method for rice straw pre-treatment before DFP can take place.
The project will also demonstrate the potential of the fermented streams as co-substrates when used in anaerobic digestion in WWTPs where they increase biogas yield by 10-43% as demonstrated in the Pinedo WWTP, the largest in the Valencian Autonomous Region. LIFE REPTES will not only improve the well-being of citizens who live near lignocellulosic crop areas by preventing GHG emissions and valorising biowastes, but also create a new, profitable and bioenergetically-efficient business model.
LIFE REPTES involves the participation of public and private institutions with experience in research into and management of biowastes DEPURACION DE AGUAS DE MEDITERRANEO SL (DAM) acts as the project coordinator and there are three other partners.
- DEPURACION DE AGUAS DE MEDITERRANEO SL (DAM), AVENIDA BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 21, PARQUE TECNOLOGICO DE VALENCIA, PATERNA VALENCIA, 46980, Spain.
- AINIA (AINIA), CALLE BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 5-11, PARQUE TECNOLOGICO DE VALENCIA, PATERNA VALENCIA 46980, Spain.
- GENIA BIOENERGY SL (GENIA), AVENIDA RONDA DE NAZARET 9 BAJA, VALENCIA 46024, Spain.
- CONSORCI DE LA RIBERA (CRIB), CARRER TARONGER 116, ALZIRA VALENCIA 4660, Spain.
- Project coordination
Goals: The consortium partners will develop effective technical, administrative and financial management to ensure the successful execution of the LIFE REPTES project and to achieve its objectives.
Partners involved: All partners
Design, construction and commissioning of the demonstration plant in a WWTP
Goals: partners DAM and AINIA, in collaboration with GENIA, will design the demo plant and control system to validate the biohydrogen production process. The plant will be built, operated and controlled at the Pinedo WWTP (Valencia, Spain). This approach will enable validation and optimisation of the biohydrogen production process, assessment of the process efficiency and a demonstration of enhancement of biogas formation in the AD process.
Partners involved: DAM, AINIA, GENIA
Implementation of the demo plant at Pinedo WWTP
Goals: this measure is necessary to verify the feasibility of the LIFE REPTES model as a preindustrial-scale valorisation alternative for rice straw. The performance of the process under a series of operational conditions will be analysed to enable an assessment of its versatility. Valuable experimental data will also be compiled for analysis of energy efficiency and energy-yield biohydrogen production. In addition, experimental data useful for the analysis of energy efficiency and energy-efficient biohydrogen production will be collected.
Partners involved: DAM, AINIA, GENIA
Goals: the technical and financial viability of the LIFE REPTES technology will be assessed in this work package (WP) and the scale and operating conditions for optimal biohydrogen production from lignocellulosic by-products and WWTP sludge will be identified. The environmental, economic and social sustainability performance of LIFE REPTES will be compared to conventional systems used to manage these lignocellulosic by-products and WWTP sludge using a Life Cycle Sustainability (LCSA) approach.
Partners involved: All partners
Business and Operating Plan
Goals: this WP will include the Business and Operating Plan, a tool to support replication and a study of large-scale implementation of the proposed model. The partners will study the transferability of the project results by analysis of performance of the proposed tasks to ensure that the adopted solution is implemented beyond the project at certain scales.
Partners involved: GENIA, DAM, AINIA
Public awareness and dissemination of outcomes
Goals: this WP will include design and implementation of a series of coordinated dissemination activities to be carried out by all participants using different tools. Appropriate channels will be carefully selected to efficiently communicate the results according to the target audience and the project’s development stage..
Partners involved: CRIB, DAM, AINIA, GENIA
The views and opinions expressed herein pertain exclusively to the project partners and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
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