Breakthrough in Nitrate-polluted Water Treatment

26 enero 2017

The first world electro-denitrification plant to supply drinking water to a municipality is expected to start operating in the small village of Borrassà (province of Girona, Spain) in February 2017. This initiative is carried out by Hydrokemós, a spin-from the Chemical Institute of Sarrià, one of the most important science educational institutions in Barcelona.

The first world electro-denitrification plant to supply drinking water to a municipality is expected to start operating in the small village of Borrassà (province of Girona, Spain) in February 2017. The plant will produce 100 m3 per day. This initiative is carried out by Hydrokemós, a spin-from the Chemical Institute of Sarrià, one of the most important science educational institutions in Barcelona. The plant is based on an innovative technology devised by this company. It consists in a nitrate removal process through electrochemical technology. The process also chlorinates and disinfects water.

"The destruction of nitrates is the main advantage of this process", says Ruth Canicio, CEO of Hydrokemós. "The point is that existing technologies for the same purpose -ion exchange, electrodyalisis, reverse osmosis- generate waste, and electro-denitrification does not", she adds. Nitrate is not removed from water by any kind of separation: it is consumed in a reaction that yields nitrogen and oxygen which are environmentally innocuous. There is another technique, bio-denitrification, that also destroys nitrates, but is extremely sensitive to temperature and it requires heavy investment. Besides it relies on carbon sources.

Disruptive technology

The process of electro-desnitrification of water polluted by nitrates in Borrassà has been in a testing period for half a year and it has turned into a success. The analytical results have been certified by the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA). Furthermore, Dipsalut (Girona province public health body) has corroborated electro-desnitrification is potentially the BAT (Best Available Technique) for the elimination of nitrates considering aspects such quality, productivity and costs. According to Ruth Canicio, "electro-desnitrification can be called a disruptive technology". Hydrokemós began researching in this field in 2004 and the first lab prototypes were built in 2012.

The company has developed two more projects that are based on the same technology for the industry. One is a plant to generate drinking water in a food processing factory which opened last October. The other is focused in the treatment of polluted water coming from a metallurgic facility and starts operating in January 2017. Both are located in Catalonia, There are still more chances ahead for new projects in the next months, especially in the treatment of wastewater from agricultural desalination plants. "We are in a scale-up phase where we are validating the technology in different applications" concludes Ruth Canicio.

Images: HYK-FP plant with capacity to purify 20 m3 / day from a nitrate contaminated well in a Catalan farm. Credit  Hydrokemós*

 

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