Bondalti Water wins go! sustainability award ODS with LIFE Multi-AD project

The European LIFE Multi-AD 4 AgroSmes project, developed by a consortium coordinated by Bondalti Water and with technology developed by this company, was the big winner of the go! ODS, the leading initiative in Spain that distinguishes innovative actions in the field of sustainability.

Awarded in the category “Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 - Drinking Water and Sanitation”, LIFE Multi-AD is a project that sets new levels of efficiency in water management as a critical factor for the competitiveness of SMEs in the food and beverage sector in the European Union (EU). This sector, the largest in the EU, is comprised of 290,000 small and medium-sized companies, which represent more than 99% of the business fabric of this industry, characterized by being highly intensive in the use of water and producing a significant volume of waste effluent.

Given the weight of the sector and the impact that the project may generate from an economic and environmental point of view when installed on a large scale, LIFE Multi-AD took as its strategic axis the satisfaction of the needs of SMEs in this field, establishing a new technological paradigm that allows companies to evolve to a circular economy model and thus increase their sustainability.

For this purpose, the initiative, co-financed by the EU under the LIFE program, and in which the entities also participate in the consortium Institutions & Strategies (France), Energygreen Gas and ITAINNOVA (Spain) ESis (Romania), materialized in the development of a highly efficient and accessible anaerobic (oxygen-free) system.

The first industrial-scale application was installed in the current water treatment plant of Bodegas AGE, located in Fuenmayor (La Rioja) and belonging to the Pernod Ricard Winemakers Spain group, based on a high-performance multi-stage reactor, with a maximum daily treatment capacity of 200 m3 and pollutant loads of up to 2000 kg/day. The continuous operation 24/7 and the treatment and recovery of more than 10,000 m3 of wastewater throughout the project demonstrated its capacity to reduce Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) by more than 95%, reduce exploration costs by more than 30% and energy consumption by about 60%, and reduce CO emissions by more than 50%.

Simultaneously with wastewater treatment, Multi-AD technology also has the major advantage of producing high-quality biogas with a methane content of more than 80%. This renewable fuel gas is used as a source of thermal energy in the purification system itself, although it can also be used in other areas of the food and beverage industry, helping to advance the achievement of decarbonization goals.

According to Pedro Pais, executive director of Bondalti Water, “the multi-AD technology developed by Bondalti Water, as part of this project, has already demonstrated the technical and economic viability of the industrial-scale solution. Currently, we can also offer the benefits of anaerobic digestion with the production and use of biogas to smaller companies, which represent an important part of the market, particularly in the agri-food sector. We demonstrated high treatment efficiency, with a reduction of more than 30% in operating costs and 50% in the carbon footprint, and we added another technology to Bondalti Water's portfolio of integrated water cycle solutions”.

As a goal, the consortium estimates that it will be able to install more than 160 multi-AD systems in the European and Latin American agri-food sector by 2030. Each project can be developed according to the needs identified, using specific software, covering a range of capacities between 25 and 500 m/day.

The go! awards SDGs are organized and managed by the UN Spain Global Compact, in collaboration with the Rafael del Pino Foundation. These awards aim to recognize and support innovative projects that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, adopted on September 25, 2015, setting specific goals to ensure prosperity for all as part of a new Sustainable Development Agenda.

Technological leap in an intensive sector

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the food industry is responsible for 70% of global water consumption. As a result of its activity, this sector generates waste effluents characterized by high concentrations of biodegradable organic matter, which represent a high environmental pressure due to their high flow rates and polluting loads.

The systems most commonly used by this industry, namely by SMEs, use aerobic biological treatment, which generate a high relative energy consumption and do not allow the recovery of biogas, which represents little or no opportunity to offset carbon emissions.

The currently existing anaerobic systems, more environmentally friendly and more economical in terms of operating costs, are mainly optimized for wastewater treatment in large companies, with needs greater than 1000 m3/day - with 2500 m3/day being the standard capacity - as a result of economies of scale that make investment in large systems more user-friendly.

According to Jose B. Carbajo, head of IDI at Bondalti Water and coordinator of the LIFE Multi-AD project, “the relatively low organic load produced by SMEs in the food and beverage sector has not, however, made the application of anaerobic reactors economically feasible, a limitation that we have now demonstrated to be possible to overcome with the development of the multi-AD technological solution”.