Thermal energy recovery from wastewater – THERBIOR

This project focuses on the development, implementation and diffusion of technologies to improve energy efficiency in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) using a fully off-grid solar-assisted heat pump (SHP) system.

The client

Horizon Europe – European Union

Our role

The contribution of 2.-0 LCA consultants consists of applying life cycle assessment to evaluate the potential environmental impacts and benefits associated with the technology being developed, i.e. the recovery of energy from wastewater for cooling/heating in buildings. This is a two-year project starting May 2016. Project completed May 2019.

Thermal energy recovery from a novel sequencing batch biofilter granular reactor

THERBIOR is applicable Europe-wide but is centered on the Mediterranean region. The THERBIOR project aims to provide a solution for the tourism sector, which is characterised by intense seasonal water demand and wastewater discharge.

This project will integrate physical infrastructure such as a highly efficient tubular heat exchanger coupled to a fully off-grid reversible water- source heat pump with a pioneering, novel Sequencing Batch Biofilter Granular Reactor (SBBGR) already installed in the Water Research Institute (CNR-IRSA, Italy), which creates new value through reuse and repurposing.

The main goal is to reuse the heat from the existing novel SBBGR reactor at CNR-IRSA into a low-temperature air conditioning system capable of covering the cooling/heating (CH) and domestic hot water (DHW) demand of an experimental test laboratory; this will be constructed during the project at the CNR-IRSA site. The system will be backed up by short-term storage based on Phase Change Materials (PCM) to ensure year-round coverage of the experimental lab’s CH and DHW demand.

After obtaining satisfactory results from the developed prototype, we will analyse this innovative application’s viability for incorporation into Almeria’s (Spain) and Bari’s (Italy) tourist facility network. Our main goal will be to evaluate how much energy we can gain from a specific urban wastewater network to reduce energy consumption (currently originating mainly from fossil fuels) for cooling/heating purposes in tourist buildings located in the cities.

The project also intends to create new business opportunities, notably by supporting SME involvement in local water and solar-energy supply chains. THERBIOR comprises a consortium of 4 European organisations from Spain, Italy and Denmark, combining a wide range of technical, institutional and business expertise.

Some of the results from the project are published in the Prospective environmental and economic assessment article.