LIFE Multi-AD 4 AgroSMES European Project: The experts' view

Representatives from the water sector, public administration, and food and beverage companies discuss within three days (June 15) the benefits of integrating innovative multi-AD technology into wastewater treatment systems in the European agri-food sector.

The meeting takes place as part of the presentation of the LIFE Multi-AD 4 AgroSMes European Project, developed by a consortium led by AEMA | Bondalti, and includes a conference entitled “Innovative anaerobic solution at the service of industrial sustainability”, followed by a visit to the facilities located at Bodegas AGE (Fuenmayor, Rioja).

The event, in which it is still possible to register for face-to-face participation, can also be followed via streaming, through registration hereto.

Some of the speakers left, in advance, brief notes of their interventions and the perspective they have on the positive impact of this technology:

PEDRO PAIS - Bondalti Water and Grupo Aema, Executive Director

What is Bondalti's innovation strategy?

“Innovation is part of Bondalti's history and present and is its best guarantee for the future. It is one of the 5 Bondalti Values (together with Competence, Human Development, Integrity and Responsible Action) and it is the commitment of the Board of Directors to build an organizational culture oriented to creativity, adaptability, innovation and continuous improvement. As a leading Iberian company in the area of Chemistry, Water Treatment and Decarbonization, and an organization with more than 100 years of history, Bondalti is aware of the importance of Research, Development and Innovation (R+D+i) and of the contribution of partnerships to improve its profile of incorporating knowledge and technologies, as well as to guarantee an evolutionary vision of incremental innovations and stimulate disruptive innovations.”

How is the multi-AD solution integrated into the technological portfolio offered by Bondalti?

“The multi-AD solution is aligned with Bondalti's vision of developing differentiating technological solutions for our clients, boosting not only technical efficiency, but also operational and energy efficiency, contributing to the reduction of our customers' carbon footprint. In addition, the project is the result of intense collaboration with several organizations from various European countries, in line with our collaborative vision and of partnership to face the challenges we set ourselves”.

NATHALIE BEAUCOURT - Government of La Rioja, Director General of Reindustrialization, Innovation and Internationalization

How does the General Directorate of Reindustrialization, Innovation and Internationalization contribute to the development of R+D+i projects such as Multi-AD?

“The DGRII of the Government of La Rioja offers a series of aids and services to favor and stimulate companies in the development of R+D+i projects, such as:

- Specialized training in innovation and best practices in project management.

- Launch of grants and economic aid to promote the execution of R+D+i projects, both in technological equipment and in projects for Technological Centers, which will later transfer the results to companies, as well as with the competition for challenges, grants for carrying out test tests or collaborative microprojects exclusively between companies.

- Support clusters and business associations, through the formalization of agreements, aimed at the development of projects and internationalization of their partners.

- Encourage the hiring of research personnel, through the line of pre-doctoral scholarships for companies and research and technology centers.

- Encourage internationalization, both in terms of commercial and innovation, facilitating access to different European R&D funds and advising on internationalization strategies, through training courses, workshops and the development of Market Surveillance (VIMER)”

JUAN M. LEMA - Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC); Scientific Coordinator of CRETUS (Cross Disciplinary Research in Environmental Technologies)

What would you highlight as the sector's main challenges in relation to effluent purification?

“The new environmental standards proposed by the European Union, with stricter criteria, namely at the N and P levels, require an advanced technological response. It is also necessary to take into account possible future and foreseeable limitations related to toxicity and the release of micro and nano pollutants. Of course, in a climate change scenario, the reuse of treated water must be an important objective. This may require a very substantial modification in treatment strategies.”

How can anaerobic technology contribute to solving these challenges?

“Anaerobic technology, whose efficiency and efficacy have been sufficiently demonstrated in the removal of carbonated organic matter, can be a great ally for minimizing energy consumption and resource recovery, in combination with new technologies for autotrophic nitrogen removal that, until now, limited its application to the treatment of wastewater with significant N content”.

JUAN JOSÉ GIL BARCO - La Rioja Water and Waste Consortium, Manager

What are the main aspects of the sanitation fee that companies should know?

“Companies must be aware that the sanitation fee is a regional environmental tax that applies the European principle “the polluter pays”. It taxes the discharge of wastewater taking into account both the discharged flow and the polluting load. Consequently, the higher the degree of purification of your effluents, the lower the fee to be paid. ”

How can decentralized technologies, installed in companies, such as Multi-AD, help improve wastewater treatment in La Rioja?

“Public treatment plants are not designed and should not be designed to handle all the discharges that companies in the region can carry out. To this end, the La Rioja sanitation and purification law established since 2000 a regulation that limits the conditions under which these non-domestic discharges can be carried out in the sewer networks. This implies for many companies the need to install treatment and/or pre-treatment plants in their facilities before unloading. For this reason, the existence of these facilities contributes to the improvement of wastewater treatment in La Rioja and to the improvement of our water environment.”

LUÍS CARLOS MARTÍNEZ — AEMA, Wastewater and Biogas Product Manager

What are the anaerobic technological solutions that AEMA puts at the service of its customers?

We have a wide range of technological solutions through anaerobic treatment of both granular and flocculent sludge, choosing based on the characteristics of the effluent. We cover CSRT, UASB, EGSB, and high-speed towers technologies.

What are the benefits that anaerobic technology is bringing to installations that have already been implanted?

We have three very important benefits:

1. Expansion of debugging capacity with a minimal implementation footprint.

2. Reduction of the operating costs of the facilities, especially in energy consumption.

3. Production of recoverable biogas, either for self-consumption at the facility itself through the production of electricity, or for industrial consumption.

CLEMENTE BEA - CTIC CITA, General Director

What are the main challenges faced by agri-food SMEs in terms of water purification?

“The concept of environmental sustainability is a fundamental challenge for the agri-food industries in the traceability of their processes and products, as it is aligned with the demand and requirements of consumers in the new millennium.”

JOSE B. CARBAJO — AEMA, Head of R+D+i Projects. LIFE Multi-AD Coordinator.

How did the idea of developing multi-AD technology come about?

“Aware of the environmental challenge faced by agri-food SMEs to find sustainable and effective purification systems, AEMA promoted a European consortium together with four other companies to develop an innovative technological solution.

The Multi-AD project, with the contribution of the European Union's LIFE financial instrument, expanded and automated a high-performance multistage anaerobic reactor based on the 100 L prototype patented by AEMA (ES-2541078-B1).

LIFE Multi-AD allowed us to obtain a new product to offer to our customers and is the last stage of more than 15 years' work carried out by AEMA in the development of anaerobic technology.”

What are the key benefits of implementing multi-AD technology?

“The continuous operation 24 hours a day at Bodegas AGE (Fuenmayor) and the treatment and recovery of more than 10,000 m3 of wastewater throughout the project showed that the multi-AD technology is capable of: reducing COD by more than 90%; producing biogas with a methane content greater than 80%; reducing operating costs by more than 30%; reducing CO2 emissions by more than 50%.”

CHARO URUÑUELA - La Rioja Economic Development Agency (ADER), project manager

What has been ADER's role in the development of multi-AD technology?

“From the first stages of technical support in the search for the best development and financing option, ADER financed the following actions:


- Support for the preparation by an external specialist of feasible proposals to access funding through the Marie Curie program of the VII Framework Program, to continue development.

- Help for optimal fiscal management of investment expenses in R&D through Motivated Reports 166.001.

- Support for the preparation by an external specialist of viable proposals to access funding through the European H2020-SMEINST Faasibility Study Phase 1 program.

- Help for optimal fiscal management of investment expenses in R&D through the Motivated Report 166.001 of the final phases.

ADER, based on previous contacts for the identification and definition of the best development option and its financing, financed and supported the first development, supporting the preparation of feasible proposals for the following phases of development in national and European programs until the final LIFE demonstration pilot was reached. Also the preparation of reports motivated by R&D for better fiscal management of the R&D effort.”

How can ADER catalyze the deployment of technologies such as multi-AD in end users?

“With the vision of accompanying companies in La Rioja in the different stages of their development to consolidate a more balanced and sustainable region, ADER supports the implementation in companies of the best available technologies and, especially, those that improve their environmental and energy performance, through specific lines of Promotion of the Circular Economy and Energy Transition (TEC - EE) and through general lines of acquisition of fixed assets such as, among others, the Invest PME (INP) lines, investment projects promoted by Grandes Companies (IGI) and Promotion of the Small and Medium Agrifood Industry (PAL).

In particular, the TEC helpline, with a higher aid intensity than the general asset lines, promotes the implementation by companies of technologies that allow them to increase the level of environmental protection of their effluents, supporting investment in treatment technologies that guarantee that the regulatory requirements to be complied with by the company are exceeded, significantly improving its environmental impacts.”

ANTONIO FUMANAL - AGORA Group, Master Brewer responsible for R+D+i

How is anaerobic technology integrated into the ecosystem of La Zaragozana?

“Our main fermentation process for brewing beer is anaerobic fermentation, so it's easy to extrapolate the characteristics surrounding its metabolic pathways. We work with very different microorganisms, but knowing the metabolic needs and conditions of their ecosystems is a perfect starting point for developing a language of understanding.”

What are the current and future benefits of the anaerobic process for a beverage industry like La Zaragozana?

“Traditional aerobic processes consumed a lot of energy, required large infrastructures and a lot of space. All of this is substantially improved with the introduction of more efficient anaerobic processes, which allow the recovery of part of the energy contained in the waste and are truly compact. But to take advantage of all these technological advantages, knowledge is needed. Fortunately, there are companies that have spent years improving and strengthening these processes.”

ANTONIO DOMÍNGUEZ - EGA, Technical Manager

How does the multi-AD technological solution contribute to the decarbonization strategy defined by the EU?

“Multi AD presents innovative technology for wastewater treatment and resource recovery in small agro-industrial facilities. The production of biogas from these effluents is part of the solution to achieve climate neutrality, as well as to promote the development of a circular economy, taking advantage of the great potential of the agri-food sector.”

What is the technical feasibility of this type of reactor for the joint treatment of other wastewater, such as sludge?

“MultiAd can be an efficient solution for the decentralized treatment of the liquid fraction of sludge as a co-substrate with this type of effluent, which would provide N to the mixture, as well as alkalinity, nutrients and microorganisms necessary for digestion.”

ANDREEA GHINET - SIS, Commercial Director

What is the degree of autonomy that the Multi-AD technological solution has?

“After the initial initialization stage, when the key parameters are established, the multi-AD technology works as a fully automated solution, where all control systems work together to ensure the correct biochemical and flow dynamic characteristics for an optimal reaction within the reactor.”

How were concepts such as IoT or Industry 4.0 integrated into Multi-AD?

“Even though all the control is done locally, Industry 4.0 allowed the multi-AD technology solution to be fully autonomous, while the main events and alarms are remotely monitored to ensure safe operation. At the same time, data is collected on the PHCenter remote platform for subsequent analysis to improve the operation and maintenance of the facility.”

MARIO MIANA - Itainnova, R&D Technician, Materials and Components Technology

What tools have been used by ITAINNOVA to facilitate the scaling of multi-AD technology?

“The design of the multi-AD technology employed three groups of numerical tools: fluid dynamics simulations, generation of reduced order models, and functional programming of bioreactor design models in spreadsheets. First, multiphase fluid flow, heat transfer, and chemical reaction within the prototype were analyzed. It was observed that the main design parameter of the system was the phase distribution within the reactor, so the numerical model was simplified considering only the modeling of the fluid flow, turbulence, and volume fraction of each phase. As input variables for the reactor design, the surface velocity of the liquid, the initial load of solids, the gas generation, and the relationship between the diameter and the height of the chambers were selected. Then, an experiment planning was carried out to obtain the distribution of solids in each chamber. These results are applied to the second group of tools, that is, to the Twinkle tool. This tool generates reduced order models, that is, mathematical models that predict the distribution of solids for any set of values of the input variable within the analyzed range. The advantage of using reduced order models is that they allow you to accurately predict the distribution of solids immediately, without the need to perform new fluid simulations. It should be noted that the calculation time of each fluid dynamics simulation exceeds 72 h. Once the reduced order model has been obtained, the third group of tools develops a computational application for the design of new bioreactors, combining the potential of a spreadsheet with the programming of modules in Python. With this application, the user easily calculates the main flows of matter and energy that flow through the multi-AD installation.”

How did they contribute to achieving robust scaling?

“The fluid simulation tools allowed us to know in detail the distribution of solids in each chamber, as well as the velocity values and the flowing flows of each phase through the reactor. In this way, a new design was generated that favors contact between the phases and prevents the loss of solids in the separator. The validity of the input variables selected to define the fluid dynamic field inside the reactor was verified, ensuring similar behaviors in larger volume reactors. Reduced-order models allow the knowledge generated by fluid dynamics simulations to be condensed into a series of equations whose quick solution facilitates their use in new facility design processes, where a large number of modifications must be evaluated in a short period of time. The computer application presents in a clear and orderly manner all the knowledge generated in the project for its daily management. ”

What are the main advantages, from the point of view of fluid dynamics, of the multi-AD reactor?

“The purpose of the anaerobic reactor is to ensure contact between the liquid phase, where the nutrients are, and the solid phase, where the bacteria that must eliminate these nutrients are found. As a result of digesting nutrients, bacteria emit various gas bubbles. The lower density of the gas causes the bubbles to rise and, consequently, generates a vertical and upward movement of the liquid carried away by the bubbles. The solid, due to its higher density, tends to settle, so the velocity of the liquid must be high enough to keep the solid particles floating. One could think of working with high liquid velocities, but this would result in the mechanical breakdown of the particles and their loss by drag towards the outlet. Therefore, the velocity of the liquid must be controlled to achieve the buoyancy of the particles, but not their drag. This generally involves working at low speeds, which makes contact between phases difficult. The fluid dynamic design of the reactor guarantees this contact, since the orientation of the baffles guarantees the contact of the downward flow of solids with the upward currents of liquid and gas through the grooves that connect the various chambers.”