ENERGY SELF-SUSTAINING AND ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT REDUCTION ON WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANTS VIA FUEL CELLS (BIOCELL)
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The European Union puts much emphasis on developing means of dealing with both global warming control and the energy market. Within this framework, the EU is committed to transforming Europe into a high energy-efficient and low greenhouse-gas-emitting economy and makes a firm independent commitment to achieve at least a 20% reduction of greenhouse gases emissions by 2020 compared to those in 1990. Moreover, within the framework of the Energy Policy for Europe (EPE), the European Council endorses the target of a 20% share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020.

Within this framework, energy on wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) must be considered not only in terms of consumption reduction, but also in terms of production and use of “green” energy. Within this context, anaerobic digestion is widely used to treat wastewater sludge and organic waste because it provides volume and mass reduction of the input material and is also a renewable source of energy as the process produces a methane rich biogas suitable for replacing fossil fuels. For many years this use of biogas has been widely developed, mainly by using it to produce electricity via traditional CHP units. Nowadays new promising technologies have been developed which offer both a higher efficiency, and a further reduced environmental impact: hydrogen fuel cells.

Several fuel cells are adaptable to wastewater treatment plants, two of which are Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) and Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC). Moreover, EMUASA and CETaqua have already started operating a pre-industrial biogas treatment unit on a WWTP (Murcia) with a view to implementing a PEMFC fuel cell, and have also developed much knowledge throughout these works.