Wright-Pierce has partnered with the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, to investigate the effectiveness of bipolar membrane electrodialysis in wastewater nutrient recovery from anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion has already proven useful for its production of clean-burning, renewable biogas from either food waste or wastewater solids. The renewable energy can then be used to power wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) or sold to electrical grids. However, the focus of this two-year project is the potential for more energy-efficient nutrient removal, which can represent up to 60% of WWTP operating costs.

In collaboration with Clarkson faculty and students, equipment manufacturers, and plant operators, Wright-Pierce will assist in a study which includes the installation and operation of a pilot system for this innovative process at the Cortland WWTP, a 9 MGD facility in Upstate New York. The pilot test unit will allow the team to evaluate scale-up opportunities and project the results of full-scale system implementation as part of overall WWTP operations. A key component of the study is a lifecycle cost assessment and economic evaluation of the process with the goal of determining a realistic and holistic outlook that includes cost, energy savings, system size, footprint, and operator needs. The evaluation will help answer the question of whether the cost of implementing a bipolar membrane system as part of anerobic digestion processes will be offset by energy reduction, resulting not only in better outcomes for the environment but also cost savings for WWTP owners and operators.

Taeyoung Kim Schematic

Schematic of the bench-scale process comprising nutrient separation and recovery units. Used with permission from Dr. Taeyoung Kim, PhD, Clarkson University.

This partnership was forged through an ongoing relationship between Clarkson University faculty and Wright-Pierce Senior Project Manager and Client Service Manager Kevin Hickey, who is a Clarkson alumnus and adjunct professor. Kevin is a seasoned engineer who has designed pilot study programs for municipal wastewater treatment facilities and is excited about keeping Wright-Pierce at the forefront of emerging technologies and teaming opportunities. Getting involved at the developmental stages “helps position us down the road to implement these technologies on larger scales and to already know how to use and optimize these technologies,” Kevin says.

The bipolar membrane electrodialysis project is evidence of Wright-Pierce’s commitment to new approaches in water/wastewater treatment technologies, energy efficiency, and green initiatives, and the firm looks forward to future incubator projects related to PFAS removal, digestor operation, and biological treatment processes. Wright-Pierce is also experienced in evaluating the feasibility of incorporating emerging technologies into existing treatment facilities, helping owner/operators make informed decisions with an eye on long-term environmental impact and the bottom line.

If your organization is engaged in similar research efforts or is seeking to reduce your energy footprint, contact us today to learn more about how Wright-Pierce can be a great design/engineering partner for your efforts.