Characterisation of Wastewater and CO2-Rich Gases
January 26, 2023

Author: Fabio Magrassi

Wastewater and CO2-rich gases are important environmental concerns that can have significant impacts on human health and the planet’s ecosystems. The characterisation of these materials is crucial for understanding their properties and for developing effective strategies for their management and reuse in the circular economy and is one of the key goals of FRONTSH1P Circular Systemic Solution 3.

Wastewaters: Eutrophication is FRONTSH1P’s main concern. Eutrophication is a process by which bodies of water become overloaded with nutrients, such as phosphorous (P) and nitrogen (N), causing reduced oxygen levels in the water, changes in the species composition of aquatic communities, and even fish kills. Wastewater can be a significant source of P and N that contribute to eutrophication. The discharge of wastewater onto fields can result in the runoff of these nutrients into nearby bodies of water, leading to excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants. Phosphorous is an essential nutrient for plants and animals, but an excessive amount can lead to eutrophication. It is commonly found in wastewater from domestic and industrial sources, as well as agricultural runoff. Nitrogen is also an essential nutrient for plants and animals, but excessive amounts can lead to eutrophication. Nitrogen compounds are found in wastewater from domestic and industrial sources, as well as agricultural runoff. Nitrogen compounds can be present in the form of nitrates or ammonia. In Poland, there are regulations in place to limit the amount of P and N that can be present in wastewater before they are discharged on fields. However, it is important to note that not all treatment plants can meet these limits and enforcement of regulations may vary. Overall, the eutrophication potential of wastewater is a significant concern and proper characterisation, treatment and regulation are crucial to minimising the negative impacts on the environment and human health. In Eastern Europe, the characterisation of wastewater is particularly important due to the legacy of industrialisation and pollution in the region. In Poland, industrial activities have led to the contamination of surface and groundwater with heavy metals, organic compounds, and other pollutants. The characterisation of wastewater can help identify the sources of these contaminants and inform strategies for their management and removal. FRONTSH1P is building a dataset of different industrial and civil wastewaters present in the Łódzkie region to understand and develop the best solutions for managing and reducing the impacts on land and waters and to increase human health and the planet. The dataset is built using characterisation techniques that provide information on the composition and physical properties of the wastewaters, as well as any potential contaminants they may contain, particularly:

  • Chemical analysis is used to determine the levels of nutrients, organic matter, and heavy metals in wastewater.
  • Microscopy is used to examine the presence of microorganisms.
  • Spectroscopy is used to identify specific compounds.

CO2-rich gases: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that is released into the atmosphere through natural processes and human activities. One of the major sources of CO2 emissions is industrial processes, which can include the burning of fossil fuels for energy, the production of cement and other industrial materials, and other manufacturing processes. For example, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the industry sector accounted for 24% of total CO2 emissions in 2019. The power sector is also a major source of CO2 emissions, as it is responsible for generating electricity, which is then used by industry and other sectors. In Poland, the industry sector accounted for 30% of total CO2 emissions in 2019, according to the Central Statistical Office of Poland. Poland’s National Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 sets targets for reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix. To address the CO2 emissions from the industrial sector, several approaches can be taken. One is to improve energy efficiency in industrial processes, which can reduce the amount of fossil fuels that need to be burned. Another is to shift to cleaner forms of energy, such as renewable energy sources, which can help to reduce emissions from the power sector. FRONTSH1P aims to reuse CO2 as a fundamental chemical in other productive sectors through different forms of carbon capture (CC). To do so it is fundamental to acquire information on the exhaust gases coming from partner industries through characterisation. CO2-rich gases can be characterised through a variety of methods, including gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. These techniques can help determine the concentration of CO2 in the gas and other pollutants that may be present and find the right tools to increase their purity and reusability in a circular economic way.