Despite the progress made in recent years, a large percentage of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Europe and in the rest of the world are still being operated below optimum achievable performance.

This underperformance becomes apparent in the form of treated water discharges that are not compliant with water quality standards as well as low efficiencies in terms of energy consumption. In this context, the art-ICA (advanced real time – Instrumentation, Control and Automation) controllers are a novel advanced control solution for biological nutrient removal WWTPs that, when applied, immediately lead to significant improvements in these systems in terms of the quality of the treated water combined with appreciable savings in electricity.

Unlike other control solutions, the art-ICA controllers rely on multivariable control techniques, with the objective of controlling all the plant actuators in an integrated way by considering their interactions. In employing this strategy, the art-ICA controllers are able to manage the trade-offs between water quality and energy costs with great effectiveness.

Although the technical feasibility of the art-ICA controllers has already been proven in two real Spanish plants (the Galindo WWTP, 1.5 MPE –Population Equivalent–, and the Mekolalde WWTP, 50 kPE), two major factors have kept the art-ICA controllers from being accepted in the market more quickly:

  1. The wastewater sector is, in general, reluctant to incorporate new solutions that are not fully consolidated in the market;
  2. The investment costs associated with the art-ICA controllers are still considered relatively expensive for wastewater operators.

The artICA4nr (art-ICA controllers for nutient removal) project aims to overcome the above barriers through further replication of the art-ICA controllers in three WWTPs in Spain and Portugal.

The Navarrosillos WWTP

The Navarrosillos WWTP (Spain): 113 kPE

The Velilla de San Antonio WWTP

The Velilla de San Antonio WWTP (Spain): 123 kPE

The Chelas WWTP

The Chelas WWTP (Portugal): 210 kPE

In these three replications, the performance of the art-ICA controllers will be monitored and its benefits will be quantified through environmental as well as economic indicators. Equally important, lessons learnt during the implementation of the art-ICA controllers in these three plants will be gathered to produce commercial content that will support the presentation of the art-ICA controllers at:

  1. Targeted conferences, seminars and workshops with operators and managers of WWTPs in Spain and Portugal;
  2. International fairs.

Expected results

According to estimates, the number of European WWTPs in which the art-ICA controllers might be installed today is above 10,000, which amounts to a total pollution load above 400 MPE. We expect that by 2021 (five years after the end of the project) the art-ICA controllers will be working in about 78 wastewater treatment facilities.

If such estimates come true and the expected plant performance improvements due to the art-ICA controllers are corroborated during replication, this product will lead to the following: energy savings of above 4 GWh/year, reductions in CO2 emissions by around 1160 t CO2/year, and reductions of nitrogen in water discharge by around 1000 t N/year.