A circular solution for nitrogen fertiliser
Nitrogen, one of the key nutrients in mineral fertiliser, is crucial for agriculture to be able to produce enough food. But the production of nitrogen fertiliser with traditional methods involves burning fossil gas and causes enormous greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, wastewater treatment plants remove nitrogen from wastewater. With today’s bacteria-based methods, this nitrogen is simply released back into the air and goes to waste.
With the Aqua2N technology, by contrast, the nitrogen is recovered. It can be used immediately to produce fertilisers with reduced climate impact compared to traditional production, creating a loop. Also, no laughing gas (N2O) is produced.
EasyMining’s Aqua2N process recovers the nitrogen present in sludge liquor, the liquid which remains when the solids in sewage sludge have been separated out at the wastewater treatment plant. A precipitant captures the nitrogen and makes it possible to harvest it as crystals. The captured nitrogen is then recovered as a fertiliser in a form instantly applicable by the agricultural industry, while the precipitant agent is simply used again.
There is no shortage of nitrogen, as 78% of our atmosphere is made up of it. The problem, instead, is that nitrogen fertiliser is produced using a method invented more than 100 years ago and very harmful to the climate. Studies show that nitrogen fertiliser is responsible for more than 2% of total global climate emissions, largely because this method requires fossil gas to be burned.
These emissions can be avoided when wastewater treatment plants switch to the Aqua2N technology and start producing nitrogen fertiliser in a circular fashion. In addition, Aqua2N causes no emissions of nitrous oxide, laughing gas, which is a harmful side effect of today’s bacterial methods. Laughing gas is one of the worst greenhouse gases, up to 300 times as powerful as carbon dioxide.
The amounts of nitrogen that could be produced from existing water flows, like city sewers all over the world, is staggering. Wastewater treatment plants employing the Aqua2N technology are effectively turned into raw material plants, while slashing their carbon footprint and preventing eutrophication more efficiently.
There are many reasons to transition to modern, circular methods for nitrogen management. According to the World Bank, the development of children’s brains in several countries is so severely affected by nitrogen overload that one-third of GDP is lost, not to mention the human suffering. In one of the most developed countries in the world, the Netherlands, construction output recently took a multi-billion-euro hit when nitrogen levels were found to breach EU regulations, stopping many projects in their tracks.
Other uses for the Aqua2®N technology
The Aqua2N technology can be applied to water flows at existing wastewater facilities with little intervention and at a low cost. The method can also be applied to other flows that contain nitrogen in the form of ammonium, such as leachate from landfills and various industrial facilities.
RE-Fertilize - new plant for nitrogen recovery
In January 2023 EasyMining closed the LIFE-financed project LIFE RE-Fertilize. The project has shown that the Aqua2N process has been proven to remove and recover 95 percent of the ammonium nitrogen in sludge liquor at wastewater treatment plants, increasing the capacity of the plants, and significantly reducing their nitrous oxide emissions. (Click here to find out more about the project)