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  • ALGATEC II: Biotechnological recycling of water in oil mills

Water scarcity and droughts have become one of the main concerns in the European Union in recent years, as it has a direct impact on Europeans and various economic sectors that use and depend on water, such as agriculture. Sustainable technological solutions for treatment and reuse are sought to mitigate these adverse effects.

“It has important environmental benefits, affecting the price of the final product.”

The treatment and disposal of wastewater used for washing olives is, in particular, a major problem in the olive oil production industry. Millions of tons are used each year for this purpose, which constitutes a highly polluting waste, due to its high levels of BOD, COD, phenolic compounds, fats and oils, nitrates and phosphates.

Cinco PYMEs europeas, de tres países de la UE, cuatro socios del proyecto ALGATEC, junto con una nueva PYME especializada en estudios de mercado, han trabajado en la optimización de este sistema innovador. Todas estas estrategias han permitido que el sistema ALGATEC II sea más competitivo en el mercado, abriendo nuevas oportunidades para su comercialización por parte de las PYMEs participantes.

In the ALGATEC II project, a demonstration activity based on the promising results of the ALGATEC project (FP7-SME-2008, contract no. 232331), the objective has been to optimize a biological solution to recycle olive washing water, consisting of a photobioreactor system that uses a consortium of microorganisms for biodegradation, associated with a membrane system for the production of drinking water that is reusable in the washing system.

The innovation and competitiveness offered by the ALGATEC II system allows participating SMEs to enter a rapidly growing market such as that of washing water treatment that allows water to be reused.

In the ALGATEC II project, a pilot plant has been installed in the Cooperativa de Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados (Puente Genil, Córdoba) and has been tested under real conditions during the 2014-2015 campaign. The evaluation of the operation of the system has been carried out taking into account technical aspects (such as the real-time treatment capacity) and economic aspects (such as the competitiveness of the proposed solution).

Five European SMEs, from three EU countries, four partners of the ALGATEC project, together with a new SME specialized in market research, have worked on the optimization of this innovative system. All these strategies have allowed the ALGATEC II system to be more competitive in the market, opening new opportunities for its commercialization by participating SMEs.

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OBJECTIVES

  • Provide a competitive technical solution based on the solution developed at ALGATEC to reduce the consumption of drinking water in the olive washing process by 90% and increase the efficiency in the use of process water by 80%.
  • Reduce the total effluent of contaminated water generated in the oil mills, thus reducing the costs of wastewater management and its environmental impact.
  • Increase the competitiveness of participating SMEs and the European olive oil industry through effective and competitive treatment of WW and better management of process water.

RESULTS OBTAINED

  • The ALGATEC II system has proven to be a clear technological step forward, with the advantage of a low-cost modular system. During the demonstration phase with the pilot plant, the SMEs have gained practical experience and knowledge about the operation of the system in real conditions.
  • For the capacities tested, the system’s water output parameters are within the discharge limit values set by Spanish legislation on this matter, which implies that the effluent at this stage could be returned to the public sewerage system.
  • In addition, drinking water quality has been achieved after passing through the membrane module. These results clearly demonstrate the potential of the ALGATEC II purification system based on the microorganism consortium developed in the project, and its important capacity for treating contaminants.
  • The cost of treatment calculated for a treatment plant suitable for the needs of the oil mill chosen for the tests, and referring to prices in Spain, is estimated to be between €2.40/m3 (for the basic configuration that only includes the PBR) and €10.40/m3 (for the complete system with membrane module).
  • This cost is competitive with the cost of the traditional treatment system, to which it adds important environmental benefits, affecting the price of the final product in quantities well below cents of a euro. Specifically €0.0048 – €0.0012 per liter of oil on the market, depending on the configuration of the chosen system and referring to the Spanish market price.

Images gallery

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BIOAZUL (SP)
ISITEC (DE)
BIOT (SP)
ENCO (IT)
DESAM (SP)

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Initial sheet:

Website: www.algatec2.eu

Status: Completed

Financing programme:  7th Framework Program

Contract nº: 315469

Duration: January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2014 (24 months)

Budget: 1.421.480,00€ (EC funding: 886.000,00€)