Transforming wastewater treatment plants to sustainable biorefineries by developing VFA platform
Research Project, 2018 – 2019

Wastewater treatment plants in the world are producing a huge amount of sludge that is normally anaerobically digested (AD) to produce biogas and to reduce sludge volume. Food wastes are also a challenge in the world, where landfilling, composting and AD are the current treatments. While biogas production has economical challenges, such plants have to buy and add external carbon source such as ethanol or methanol into their denitrification process for removing nitrogen and phosphorous from wastewater. Volatile fatty acids (VFAs) are intermediate products during the AD process. This project deals with proof of concept with experimental works in lab scale and techno-economical evaluation of using membrane bioreactors to produce and extract VFAs from sludge and food wastes to be used as carbon source for denitrification, and therefore promote circular economy for wastewater treatment plants. VFA is produced from the sludge and/or in a mixture with food wastes by anaerobic digestion, where methane formation is inhibited and the VFAs are extracted via submerged membranes. This project has the potential to be applied at all Swedish (more than 400 units) and international wastewater treatment plant providing them with a well-defined concept of a biotechnology-based circular economy. In addition, successful production and extraction of VFAs make the possibility to further process them to other products such as bioplastics or butanol and use the sludge as a substrate in a biorefinery. This project is to run by University of Borås in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology and two companies Gryaab and Renova AB that take care of the wastewater and food wastes in Göteborg, respectively.


Claes Niklasson (contact)

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chemical Technology


University of Borås

Borås, Sweden



Project ID: 2018-03732
Funding Chalmers participation during 2018–2019

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