Large-scale demonstration projects for recovering nutrients from manure and sludge

Published on
December 9, 2016

Soon, the first ‘Groene Mineralen Centrale’ (green mineral plant) for the processing of pig manure will be realised. The plant will process 100,000 tonnes of pig manure to produce materials such as mineral fertilisers. This project is part of a series of five large-scale demonstration projects that Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) is going to set up, monitor and evaluate together with the business sector. Its purpose is the recovery and efficient reuse of nutrients (phosphate, nitrogen and potassium) from manure and organic waste streams.

In this project, fifteen partners will work under the coordination of Alterra for four years to realise Groene Mineralen Centrales, which should lead to the closing of nutrients cycles and the sustainable processing of manure, sewage sludge and other biomass flows in areas with an excess of nutrients. These waste streams contain large amounts of phosphate, nitrogen and potassium which are essential to the production of agricultural crops.

Manure and organic waste streams

The Groene Mineralen Centrale-concept sees organic waste streams as a source of valuable nutrients, organic material and green energy. In the demonstration projects that are to be built (one in the Netherlands and four elsewhere in Europe), organic waste streams are fermented and processed into biogas, high quality mineral fertilisers and organic soil improvers. The composition and quality of the recovered products are tailored to meet the demand of the regional or international market. This results in a sustainable and economically viable solution for the processing and sale of manure and organic waste streams.

The Green Mineral Centre

In the Netherlands, the Groene Mineralen Centrale is being built at Groot Zevert Vergisting in the Achterhoek. The prospective plant will process pig manure into nitrogen, phosphate and potassium fertilisers, clean water and an organic material low in nutrients. The recovery of mineral nitrogen and potassium is carried out according to the GENIAAL concept developed by Groot Zevert Vergisting (Beltrum) and Nijhuis Water Technology (Doetinchem). With the obtained EU grant, this concept is to be augmented with the addition of a separation step for the recovery of mineral phosphate. The combination of these technologies offers a sustainable solution for the processing of surplus animal manure in the region.

More efficient handling of nutrients

More efficient practices are imperative, since there is an increasing scarcity of phosphate. When using current biomass streams nutrients are often lost, such as in the case of the incineration of sewage sludge. They also cause excessive fertilisation of agricultural land and pollution of ground and surface water. In the context of the circular economy, there is a demand for concepts in which cycles of nutrients are closed and nutrients are handled efficiently.

This project is realised in part by a grant from the European Horizon 2020-project SYSTEMIC.

The project is being executed in collaboration with the following partners:  Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) (NL), Ghent University (BE), Milano University (IT), Afarmers (F), ICL-Europe (NL), AM-Power (BE)  Groot Zevert Vergisting (NL), Acqua & Sole (IT), RIKA (UK), GNS (D), Nijhuis Water Technology (NL), Proman (AU), Flemish Coordination Centre for Manure Processing (VSM) (BE), European Biogas Association (BE), Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) (BE).