Who says sewage can’t be a resource? This Canadian company sees a renewable resource that recovers one precious resource to protect another, find out more.
Rather than seeing treated liquid streams as waste, one Canadian company sees a renewable resource that recovers one precious resource — phosphorus — to protect another — water, while also generating costs savings and revenues for treatment plants and helping them meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
Many wastewater treatment facilities concentrate large quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus in their sludge dewatering streams. These dissolved nutrients often form an obstructive scale in piping, pumps and valves, which severely impacts a plant’s equipment reliability, efficiency and maintenance costs. Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, based in Vancouver, BC, designs and builds wastewater treatment systems with a nutrient recovery solution that removes these nutrients from wastewater and effectively transforms them into a revenue-generating, environmentally responsible commercial fertilizer — creating value from waste.
Furthermore, Ostara’s technology also takes this phosphorus out of waterways where it can be harmful and uses it to create a slow-release fertilizer that, when applied on horticultural plants, turf or agricultural crops, is more efficient and environmentally responsible than traditional phosphorus fertilizers.
The technology also helps these wastewater treatment facilities save on operating costs, providing a three- to ten-year payback on their investment, Ostara’s Pearl nutrient recovery process doesn’t replace traditional sewage treatment; it is retrofitted directly into the facility’s existing treatment process and produces a byproduct that can generate revenue. It typically costs municipalities $3 million to $5 million to include the Ostara recovery process in their wastewater treatment systems. Ostara buys back the fertilizer produced and markets it as Crystal Green, thus providing municipal customers a share in the byproduct revenue.
Last year, Ostara won its largest contract to date to design, procure and construct a nutrient recovery and fertilizer production facility for Clean Water Services, the operator of the Rock Creek Wastewater Treatment plant in Hillsboro, Oregon. The contract includes two Pearl® 2000 nutrient recovery reactors and ancillary equipment, as well as the construction of the plant building. Projects of this scale often require some sort of performance or security bond.
The Pearl® Process: Ostara’s technology recovers the scale, or struvite, in the form of highly pure crystalline pellets or “prills.” Nutrient-rich feed streams are mixed with magnesium chloride and, if necessary, sodium hydroxide and then fed into the Pearl reactor where minute particles or struvite “seeds” begin to form. Like a pearl, these seeds grow in diameter until they reach the desired size. In a municipal wastewater treatment plant, up to 90 per cent of the phosphorus and 40 per cent of the ammonia load is removed from sludge dewatering liquid using this process. Then, the resulting product is sold as a commercial fertilizer — Crystal Green®. Crystal Green is considerably less carbon-intensive than traditional fertilizer manufacturing processes because it is not mined and then transported, and it also reduces leaching and runoff.
EDC had already supported Ostara with a surety bond request for one of their first commercial plants, and the first outside Canada, for a contract with Clean Water Services. When this contract was completed, they approached us for another bond for a new contract with Clean Water Services. At the same time, we had been in discussions for a refinancing of a plant they had built and were operating in Pennsylvania. For this contract, they also need a banking partner to take on some risk as part of our Export Guarantee Program. They eventually partnered with a bank that understood their complicated business model, and, given that EDC would guarantee 50 per cent of the loan, was comfortable with the level of risk. We have since supported two domestic bonds for contracts with the city of Saskatoon and are now looking to support the company’s first installation in Europe.
In 2011, Ostara was honoured to be named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum and also received the coveted “Deloitte Technology Green 15” Award. The company has also been named to the Global Cleantech 100 in each of the last three years.