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Turning sludge into bioenergy

Full-scale test of technology for collecting and separating sludge in water treatment plants. The goal is to reduce resource consumption and increase biogas production
The Swedish Energy Agency is giving financial support to Tekniska Verken, Nodra and SurfCleaner for a full-scale test of technology for collecting and separating sludge in water treatment plants. The goal is to reduce resource consumption and increase biogas production without using water and with very small energy usage.

Sludge is a global problem in water treatment facilities that occurs in different process conditions. At the same time, sludge is a potentially important energy source (within the EU approx. 840 GWh/year) that today cannot be fully exploited since there is no solution for collecting it effectively.

Currently, sludge is managed through manual flushing or being pumped away by vacuum trucks. The use of vacuum trucks requires a considerable amount of water which, depending on how the water treatment plant is built, can result in the loss of the energy potential of the sludge. If the sludge can be collected without water, the water treatment plant can instead convert it to bioenergy and take advantage of phosphorus and, at the same time, minimize operation stoppages, operation costs, energy and chemical use.

SurfCleaner has a patented technology that collects and separates the sludge in an energy-efficient way – this will enable a significant increase in bioenergy from municipal waste streams. This technology will now be validated as a complete system that can be integrated into existing waste treatment plants in Sweden and internationally.

In this project, SurfCleaner together with several water treatment plants and industry partners in Sweden (Tekniska verken in Linköping and Nodra in Norrköping) will evaluate how SurfCleaner’s technology can be integrated into the water treatment plants’ existing processes and systems.

The Swedish Energy Agency has granted financial support for the implementation of the project “Full-scale test of SurfCleaner for collecting and separating sludge in water treatment plants” from November 2020 to June 2022.

“Tekniska verken wants to be a driving force in the development of new innovations, not least of which is establishing future-proof, resource-efficient solutions in the region. Through close collaborations with companies such as SurfCleaner, we want to create long-term profitability and efficient, secure operations.”

Anna Lövsén, Director Division Water at Tekniska verken in Linköping

"It is fun and exciting to be involved in the development of an innovative and sustainable solution that can replace today's manual and resource-intensive handling of sludge."

Bodil Widell, Head of Unit Laboratory and Development, Nodra AB

“We are excited about the opportunity to continue developing our unique machines for treatment plants so we can contribute to finding solutions to global challenges. We want to show that the treatment plants can solve their problems with sludge, save costs and use sludge to increase biogas production – a very important future energy source, not only in Sweden but worldwide.”

Mikael Andersson, CEO, SurfCleaner

With and without SurfCleaner. Images from Nykvarnsverket in Linköping, Sweden.

Initial tests 

During 2019-2020, SurfCleaner, together with Tekniska verken in Linköping and with funding from the Swedish Energy Agency, has successfully carried out the initial tests of this patented technology that makes it possible to collect and separate the floating sludge in an energy-efficient way.

In that project, a SurfCleaner has been placed in 1 of 4 lines in a biological stage at Nykvarnsverket at Tekniska verken in Linköping. Cameras have been installed during the test period and comparative images show that the SurfCleaner removes the sludge and that the technology works.

The results from these tests showed that the technology is of great significance for the industry’s ability to change to a more sustainable use of energy and resources.

“During the year we have tested SurfCleaner in one of our pools for biological treatment, we have seen that it effectively removes sludge. We are now looking forward to finding solutions to take care of the collected sludge in an energy-efficient way.”

Björn Eriksson, Department Head for Tekniska verken at Nykvarnsverket in Linköping
Global growth area
Today, Sweden is an international leader in the areas of digitization, robotization and resource efficiency in water treatment plants. Water treatment is also an area that is considered to become a large industrial growth area globally. In the long term, this project with its clear focus and a relatively well-defined market will thus be able to lead to increased employment opportunities, increased export revenues for Sweden and reduced energy consumption in Sweden and globally.
The Swedish Energy Agency has granted the project financial support corresponding to approximately 41% of the total project cost of €850,000.
Market introduction
The fully tested and verified SCO 6000 will be introduced on the market during 2021.

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