Better retreatment processes for effluent waste water

Since 2014, the project MOCOPÉE (acronym in French for MOd­el­ling, Con­trol and Opti­miza­tion of Process­es used in Waste Water Treat­ment) has brought togeth­er the forces of SIAAP, UTC, IRSTÉA as well as numer­ous aca­d­e­m­ic and indus­tri­al part­ners. This ambi­tious pro­gramme, with sev­er­al research axes, aims at mak­ing mea­sure­ments of pol­lu­tants more reli­able, improv­ing the waste water treat­ment process man­age­ment, cre­at­ing pre­dic­tive tools to make main­te­nance of equip­ment eas­i­er and to val­ue add to the by-products. 

Efflu­ent waste treat­ment sta­tion oper­a­tors and asso­ciate indus­tri­al­ists must com­ply with increas­ing­ly strin­gent and more numer­ous stan­dard require­ments, hence the need to increase the accu­ra­cy and fre­quen­cy of physi­co-chem­i­cal inspec­tions. More­over, the oth­er objec­tive to reduce costs and improve on the effi­cien­cy of the depol­lu­tion pro­to­cols rais­es new sci­en­tif­ic and tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges. Inas­much as MOCOPÉE enhances and enrich­es the exchanges among local author­i­ties, research lab­o­ra­to­ries and indus­tri­al­ists, it was cre­at­ed to accel­er­ate the emer­gence of new, inno­v­a­tive solu­tions. The SIAAP (acronym in French for inter­de­part­men­tal agency for the Paris Basin treat­ment), a major play­er in efflu­ent waste water man­age­ment, with 8.5 M inhab­i­tants in the Greater Paris (Île-de-France Region) area, UTC and IRSTÉA were desirous to set up an asso­ci­a­tion in this frame­work, for the pur­pose of ben­e­fit­ting mutu­al­ly from return on expe­ri­ence (ROE) and the skills of the oth­er actors.

“Through our col­lab­o­ra­tion with the oper­a­tor of the largest treat­ment plant in Europe (Achères near Con­flans-Sainte-Hon­orine), we have access to a vast exper­i­men­tal sta­tion”, explains Prof. André Pauss, Head of the UTC-TIMR Lab­o­ra­to­ry (Inte­grat­ed Trans­for­ma­tions of Renew­able Mat­ter). From the stand­point of the indus­tri­al part­ners, that fact that a mul­ti­tude of cer­ti­fied data from the Greater Paris SIAAP sites can be accessed has enabled the sci­en­tists and engi­neers involved to devel­op new prod­ucts and to test them, full scale, on the exper­i­men­tal sta­tion site. Alter­na­tive ana­lyt­i­cal meth­ods launched by the com­pa­nies Watch­frog and Envolure derive from this collaboration. 

Attaining operational solutions via research

There some unavoid­able top­ics for both oper­a­tors and indus­tri­al­ists here that have not as yet been giv­en much atten­tion in sci­en­tif­ic doc­u­men­ta­tion are at the heart of TIMR research car­ried out dur­ing the first four years of MOCOPÉE. The design, for exam­ple, of a tool to mea­sure nitrites has now been embod­ied as a stan­dard­ized process. UTC-TIMR and research sci­en­tists at Ecole Poly­tech­nique worked togeth­er to assem­ble and bench-test this high pre­ci­sion device. 

“We were poly­va­lent in our work, but UTC focus was espe­cial­ly on sen­sors and asso­ciate algo­rithms while the Poly­tech­nique sci­en­tists looked at command/control func­tions”, adds André Pauss. This par­tic­u­lar inno­va­tion is now in its pre-indus­tri­al phase and will be made rapid­ly avail­able for the pro­fes­sion­als of the sec­tor. One of the major axes being inves­ti­gat­ed relates to gain­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the physi­co-chem­i­cal phe­nom­e­na at play in the treat­ment reac­tors. One of the eight the­ses defend­ed (or in the course of final­iza­tion) in the frame­work of MOCOPÉE, exam­ines the pro­duc­tion of foam in the reac­tor ves­sels. Manel Larachiche, a young UTC PhD stu­dent is work­ing cur­rent­ly on the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and pre­dic­tion of this as yet large­ly unknown feature. 

The ulti­mate aim is to reduce sys­tem­at­ic reliance on anti-foam admix­tures and to antic­i­pate the occur­rence of foam­ing, so as to be able to con­trol expens­es and decrease pol­lu­tion. Anoth­er PhD stu­dent is work­ing on dig­i­tal mod­el­ling of a com­plete treat­ment plant. “Some mod­els do exist but only at the scale of a sin­gle reac­tor, a sin­gle net­work or a sin­gle sta­tion out­flow; what we are look­ing at is the pos­si­bil­i­ty to repro­duce the entire plant oper­a­tion from input to out­flow”, details the Head of TIMR. As of 2018, MOCOPÉE moves into its phase II. Opti­miz­ing the main­te­nance of treat­ment instal­la­tions and plant will be part of the next 5‑year research pro­gramme. Par­tic­i­pa­tion of the UTC-GM (Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing) Lab­o­ra­to­ry will enable fine-scale inves­ti­ga­tions of cor­ro­sion in con­crete and steel structures.

New tools, allow­ing us to assess the state of fil­ter mem­branes, will be on the research agen­da. Last­ly, a new the­sis will look at a methani­sa­tion process using treat­ment sta­tion sludge or horse manure, in a col­lab­o­ra­tive project with the Insti­tut Poly­tech­nique Uni­LaSalle and SIAAP. Find out more about this pro­gramme at

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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