GE, University of Guelph partner to improve wastewater treatment

By Erin Voegele | January 30, 2017

On Jan. 27, officials from GE Water & Process Technologies, the Ontario, Canada-based University of Guelph, and the Canadian government gathered to celebrate the grand opening of a pilot facility that aims to eliminate energy costs for wastewater treatment by maximizing renewable energy generation while simultaneously producing a pathogen-free boisolids fertilizer. The pilot facility is located at the Southern Ontario Water Consortium wastewater demonstration facility, which is adjacent to the city of Guelph wastewater treatment plant.

Under the initiative, the University of Guelph said it will work with GE Process Technologies and McMaster University to test new ways to reduce energy consumption while generating energy from the wastewater treatment process and using beneficial resources from wastewater.

The project is the first to receive funding under SOWC’s Advancing Water Technologies program, which supports collaborative, industry-led technology development projects. The program is funded by FedDev Ontario though a $12 million contribution announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year. GE indicated the AWT program is supplying nearly $600,000 to collaborators for the project. The University of Guelph noted it will receive $368,000 of that contribution. In addition, GE Water & Process Technologies is investing $900,000 in infrastructure and support.

GE Water & Process Technologies said its goal is to shift wastewater treatment from a burden to an opportunity where valuable resources can be extracted—namely renewable energy, clean water and fertilizer. The company noted that enhancing anaerobic digestion through biological hydrolysis technology is one of the keys to reaching this goal. According to GE, biological hydrolysis technology maximizes the efficiency of existing anaerobic digestion infrastructure by increasing its throughput capacity by up to three times. This enables plant owners to not only treat more sludge, but potentially other organic materials, dramatically increasing biogas production that can be converted to renewable energy. At the same time, a pathogen-free fertilizer is produced.

“We are very pleased to support this demonstration of our biological hydrolysis technology,” said Glenn Vicevic, executive, product management at GE’s Water & Process Technologies. “This pilot project further validates the viability of energy neutral wastewater treatment that can produce valuable resources in the form of clean water, renewable energy and fertilizer.”

The University of Guelph noted the project aims to achieve energy neutrality in wastewater treatment by reducing demand and recovering energy from biogas. The university said it will work with GE to test new anaerobic digestion technology using advanced biosolids treatment to improve biogas production and kill pathogens.

Member of Provincial Parliament Liz Sandals also announced $500,000 in provincial funding for SOWC at the event on behalf of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science. The investment will allow SOWC to build on the U of G research project and other innovative technologies developed by Ontario companies for capturing value from wastewater treatment.

Other schools involved in the SOWC are Fleming College, Queen’s University, Ryerson University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Western University and Wilfrid Laurier University. The city of London and the city of Guelph are also partners.