Using wastewater to create hydrogen and oxygen

activated sludge

East Lothian-based Logan Energy is supplying and installing an electrolyser at a wastewater treatment plant in Cambridgeshire as part of a novel initiative being led by Anglian Water.

The project has significant potential to be scaled up, says the firm. The plan is to investigate putting treated wastewater through an electrolyser to create hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen will then be used within a novel wastewater treatment process – Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) – targeting the reduction of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.

An entry in the Ofwat Water Breakthrough Challenge, the Triple Carbon Reduction project, led by Anglian Water, aims to develop, and demonstrate a novel integrated solution.

The hydrogen could be put to different uses, such as in fuel cells, to displace diesel generators, or for local transport applications. Also, by investigating the use of treated wastewater, the project will help with identifying ways to avoid placing additional demand on drinking water resources. The project will run until June 2024.

Process emissions are a key priority for the water sector, as they are among the most difficult to tackle. It is hoped that by using an electrolyser to generate oxygen, wastewater treatment processes will see a reduction in energy consumption of up to 85% and a reduction in nitrous oxide process emissions.

If successful, the solution could potentially be rolled out widely and at a larger scale.

plan view

Other utilities partnering in the project and expected to share the learnings include Northern Ireland Water, Severn Trent, Scottish Water and United Utilities.

Bill Ireland, Chief Executive of Logan Energy, said: “So many of today’s carbon challenges can be met with innovative ideas involving hydrogen.

“Unusually for electrolysis projects, this project will use both the oxygen and hydrogen produced, further increasing the efficiency of the overall process. We’re excited to be chosen to take part in this important project with Anglian Water, which has huge scale-up potential, and look forward to seeing the results.”

Giulia Pizzagalli, Innovation Projects Manager at Anglian Water, said:

“We are excited about this innovative project, which will greatly support the delivery of the water sector’s drive to Net Zero by 2030, by aiming to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, increase the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment processes and generate a new renewable energy source via electrolysis.

“This is a valuable opportunity to collaborate with Logan Energy. Their extensive expertise in the hydrogen sector will help our project advance the water sector’s position within the developing hydrogen landscape.”