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Expanding industrial wastewater treatment plants could cut New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions

A recent assessment report commissioned by the Bioenergy Association of New Zealand (BANZ) has shown that by expanding industrial wastewater treatment plants (WWTP's) with low-cost improvements to existing treatment facilities and an increased use of biogas as a fuel substitute, will provide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the order of 31-55 kt CO2-e per annum or 29-41 percent of total projected emissions from the industrial waste treatment sector.

According to a new report by BPO Ltd on behalf ofthe Bioenergy Association of New Zealand (BANZ), the major sources of industrial wastewater emissions in New Zealand are the meat and the pulp and paper industries (table courtesy BPO).

The review of the current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from industrial wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) was carried out by New Zealand based environmental consultancy and technical services provider BPO Ltd and was undertaken in order to assess the potential for emissions reduction potentially achievable by processing residual waste in anaerobic digestion (AD) plants to produce energy and fertiliser.

Commissioned by the Bioenergy Association of New Zealand (BANZ), the report “Assessment of Potential for Energy Generation from Expanding Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facilities” evaluated three scenarios, i.e. business as usual (BAU), encouraged uptake and accelerated uptake.

BANZ is undertaking a project funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), which is to assess the opportunities for processing residual waste in AD plants to produce energy and fertiliser in order to reduce emissions of methane to air. The aim is to refine the targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction which BANZ has advised Government could be achieved by 2030, 2040, and 2050.

The BAU scenario will see the GHG emissions increase at a rate corresponding to the industry growth. The encouraged uptake scenario, with low-cost improvements to existing treatment facilities and an increased use of biogas as a fuel substitute, will provide GHG emissions reduction in the order of 31-55 kt CO2-e per annum or 29-41 percent of total projected emissions from the industrial waste treatment sector.

Accelerated growth, where gradually increasing portion of emission-intensive treatment methods are replaced with anaerobic digestion at new or existing anaerobic digesters with complete biogas utilisation, has a potential to provide additional 151 kt CO2-e per annum of emissions reduction by 2050.

This approach will make industrial wastewater treatment sector carbon negative and offset the GHG emissions of other sectors by 72 kt CO2-e.

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