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10. February 2019

Water from Hamburg – phosphorus for the world

HAMBURG WASSER and REMONDIS to build the world's first phosphorus recovery facility using REMONDIS' Tetraphos® process

Foundation stone laid on 01 March

On 01 March, HAMBURG WASSER and REMONDIS were joined by Hamburg’s First Mayor, Dr Peter Tschentscher, and Hamburg’s environment and energy senator, Jens Kerstan, to lay the foundation stone for the world’s first phosphorus recovery facility at Hamburg’s sewage treatment plant. The project (for which the two partners founded the new company Hamburger Phosphorrecyclinggesellschaft mbH) will be acting as a role model beyond the German borders as well. Thanks to TetraPhos®, a process developed by REMONDIS, this vital substance will be able to be recovered from wastewater in Hamburg cost efficiently and on an industrial scale. The facility at Hamburg’s sewage treatment plant will be commissioned in 2020 and will be able to produce around 7,000 tonnes of ultrapure phosphoric acid from 20,000 tonnes of sewage sludge ash every year.

Phosphorus is a valuable raw material

Global reserves of phosphorus are finite and yet the demand for this substance is growing all the time. According to the UBA [Federal Environment Agency], demand will have exceeded supply by 2070. Thanks to this new phosphorus recovery facility, REMONDIS and HAMBURG WASSER are demonstrating how local authorities can help stave off this approaching global shortage. If all the operators of German sewage treatment plants were to follow Hamburg’s example, then imports of phosphorus could be cut by 60%.

From the drawing board to industrial scale operations: HAMBURG WASSER and REMONDIS Aqua’s phosphorus recovery facility is a great example of how natural resources can be conserved in the future.

At the moment, all of the phosphorus needed by Germany has to be imported. Approximately 230,000 tonnes of this raw material are used for fertilising the country’s fields every year. It is vital for plant growth – and, as a result, for food production in general. This means, of course, that recovering phosphorus will become ever more important. The German government has stipulated that phosphorus must, by law, be recovered from wastewater and returned to production cycles by 2029 at the latest.

A pioneering project

HAMBURG WASSER will be the first municipal wastewater treatment business to fulfil this new law thanks to REMONDIS’ TetraPhos® process. The project is being supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as well as by the BMU’s Environmental Innovation Programme. Hamburg’s First Mayor Dr Peter Tschentscher welcomed HAMBURG WASSER and REMONDIS’ pioneering project: “Building this phosphorus recovery facility is an important project for Hamburg as an innovative business location. Recovering phosphorus lessens the impact humans have on the environment and enables a valuable substance to be reused. By building this facility, Hamburg’s sewage treatment plant is delivering a future-proof solution and setting new standards for countries all around the world.”

The foundation stone, which also symbolised the great collaboration work, was laid by (from left to right) Nathalie Leroy, Managing Director of HAMBURG WASSER, Dr Peter Tschentscher, Hamburg’s First Mayor, Jens Kerstan, Chairman of the supervisory board of HAMBURG WASSER and Environment Senator, Norbert Rethmann, Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the REMONDIS Group, and Max Arnold Köttgen, REMONDIS Board Member

From a pilot project to an industrial facility

Jens Kerstan, chairman of the supervisory board of HAMBURG WASSER and environment senator, was very pleased to see the project, which had been inaugurated by him back in 2015, being set up on an industrial scale: “Germany imports thousands of tonnes of phosphorus every year even though large volumes of this substance can be found in our own sewage treatment plants. Recovering phosphorus is an excellent example of how a sustainable business can be run in times of dwindling resources,” he explained.

REMONDIS’ TetraPhos process will help reduce the country’s dependency on phosphate imports, prevent a supply shortage and lessen the impact humans have on the environment.

“Wastewater contains large amounts of energy and raw materials and it is our goal to make the very most of this never-ending source. We are already recovering more energy from wastewater than is needed for a small town. By building the new phosphorus recovery facility, we are turning our sewage treatment plant into an urban mine where we can source raw materials and help conserve our planet’s natural resources,” commented Nathalie Leroy, managing director of HAMBURG WASSER. “We are also expanding our sewage sludge incineration system to make even more of the energy potential in the sewage sludge. This will allow us to generate more energy and ensure that we can handle the volumes sent to us – providing a reliable service both for the city as it continues to grow and for our municipal partners.”

“Building this phosphorus recovery facility is an important project for Hamburg as an innovative business location. Recovering phosphorus lessens the impact humans have on the environment and enables a valuable substance to be reused.”

Dr Peter Tschentscher, Hamburg’s First Mayor

Helping to conserve natural resources

Max Arnold Köttgen, board member of REMONDIS SE & Co. KG, explained: “Recovering phosphorus using REMONDIS’ TetraPhos® process meets both the expectations of the public and our social responsibility to protect natural resources. This system was developed by REMONDIS and is yet another example of how innovative our business is. It also clearly shows that recycling can be cost effective. Thanks to this system, we have not only already succeeded in meeting statutory requirements that will come into force in the future, we have also further cemented our long-standing collaboration work with the City of Hamburg.”

Image credits: image 1, 2: © REMONDIS


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