The Swedish environmental company Ragn-Sells, through its innovation company EasyMining, has been granted a 19 MSEK investment from the European Union’s LIFE programme for commercializing its patented method for removing nitrogen from sewage water. The circular solution enables water treatment facilities to capture nitrogen and put it to use as a fertilizer, thereby reducing emissions of greenhouse gas.
– We are happy and honored to have the EU invest in our innovation, contributing to making nitrogen removal circular in Sweden and Europe. EasyMining’s technology puts to use the nitrogen compounds we have already produced, and helps to reduce marine eutrophication, says Anna Lundbom, who has headed the LIFE programme application process at the Ragn-Sells Group.
The technology has been developed and patented world-wide by Ragn-Sells’ innovation company EasyMining. Water with a high nitrogen content, for example in municipal sewage treatment facilities, is treated with an agent which crystallizes the nitrogen and causes it to precipitate. The nitrogen is then extracted from the crystals and may be used again in agriculture, where nitrogen is one of the key nutrients in commercial fertilizer. This offsets the need to produce virgin nitrogen compounds, thereby reducing the climate footprint of farming.
– When waste-water treatment plants use our method, they reduce their emissions of nitrogen compounds to nearby water, they reduce their climate footprint, and they save tax payer money. They do this by recovering nitrogen, a valuable nutrient, and making a real contribution towards a circular economy, says EasyMining CEO Jan Svärd.
Today’s nitrogen removal methods commonly release the nitrogen back into the air instead of recovering it. These methods typically use bacteria to separate nitrogen from the water, which also causes emissions of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), a powerful greenhouse gas which speeds up climate change 300 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide. The adsorption agent which crystallizes the nitrogen in the Ragn-Sells process is neither emitted nor consumed, but continually reused.
The project is a partnership between EasyMining, Denmark’s largest waste-water treatment company BIOFOS, Lantmännen, and Ragn-Sells’ Treatment & Detox business area. In the first phase of the project, the construction of pilot facilities is planned, and in three years, the patent will be ready for full commercialization. In addition to the use in waste-water treatment facilities, the method will also be used to treat runoff from landfills.
Through the LIFE programme, the European Union is allocating 3.4 billion euros to environmental and climate-related projects between 2014 and 2020.
Fact sheet: The process
EasyMining’s nitrogen removal process is chemical in nature, as opposed to the bacterial methods commonly used in waste-water treatment plants in Sweden and Europe today. Water with a high nitrogen content, such as the water produced from de-watering of sewage sludge, is treated with an adsorption agent, which causes the nitrogen to crystallize and precipitate. Next, the nitrogen is extracted from the crystals and may be used again, while the adsorption agent is circulated back into the process.
The method can be used on any water which contains ammonium. The EU-backed project encompasses use in waste-water treatment facilities as well as runoff from landfills. Additional possible use includes treatment of manure, and liquids from biogas production facilities.
Fact sheet: EasyMining
EasyMining is Ragn-Sells’ innovation company, focused on circular solutions for extracting resources from waste. So far, the company has commercialized three patented processes:
- Ash2Phos, for extracting phosphorus and other resources from incinerated sewage sludge while separating out heavy metals and other toxins.
- CleanMAP, a method for extracting ammonium phosphate from mining waste or other sources.
- Ash2Salt, where potassium chloride, sodium chloride and calcium chloride are extracted from fly ash from waste incineration exhaust cleaning.
For more in-depth information, please visit EasyMining’s web site.
Fact sheet: The European Union’s LIFE programme
The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for environment and climate action. Founded in 1992, the programme has so far backed more than 4,500 projects. The 2014–2020 funding period has a budget of 3,4 billion Euros.
More info can be found at the programme’s web site.
Fact sheet: Removing nitrogen from sewage water
Waste-water treatment facilities remove toxins, as well as nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from municipal sewage water. In Sweden, towns of at least 10,000 people along large portions of the coast are required to remove nitrogen from their sewage water.
In order to combat eutrophication, the levels of nitrogen allowed in water emitted from a treatment facility are subject to regulation. The nitrogen removal methods most commonly used today focus only on reducing nitrogen released to water, not on capturing nutrients for use as an agricultural fertilizer component.
The Ragn-Sells Group is a privately held corporate group, operating companies in four countries.
Since 1966, we've been involved in waste management, environmental services and recycling. We collect, treat and recycle waste and residual products from businesses, organizations and households.