Phosphate Recycling in Phosphorus Industry

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Phosphate Recycling in Phosphorus Industry

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Phosphate Recycling in Phosphorus Industry

Phosphate Recycling in Phosphorus Industry


The problems associated with iron can also be avoided when the ash from sludge from biological phosphate removal treatment plants (bio-P plants) is used. In these plants, all phosphate is removed biologically and no additional phosphate precipitation is needed. Bio-P sludge ash consists of aluminium, calcium, magnesium and sodium phosphates, with a promising 36% of P2O5. However, zinc and copper are still present in the same amounts making the material relatively unattractive for the P process. Also, the separate collection and incineration of bio-P sludge poses logistical problems. Side-stream recovery of phosphate in a WWTP (waste water treatment plant) solves these problems.


It is also possible to recover phosphate selectively, at the treatment plant itself, especially at bio-P plants. There are several ways of doing this, such as the Phostrip-process  and the BCFS-process. For an overview, see 。 In the Netherlands the treatment plant of Geestmerambacht uses the Phostrip process. The phosphate is precipitated in a Crystallactor, a sand-seeded precipitation reactor which produces phosphate pellets with less than 20% moisture. The product is a very pure Ca phosphate with impurity levels well below the limits set for the P process. This material can be used to make P4 in any amount. It is estimated that 75% of all phosphate can be recovered in this way. The remainder will stay in the active sludge. The implementation of this technology at all WWTP’s will be costly. However, it is possible to collect all filter-pressed bio-P sludges separately, transport them to a treatment plant near the central incinerator, and perform the side stream P recovery in one large reactor as described above. The sludge could then be pressed again and incinerated; also, the phosphate would become available at one site which will make transport to the P plant easier. According to an inquiry , about 90 of the 414 Dutch wastewater treatment plants have included biological P removal in their process . The total amount of phosphate that can theoretically be recovered in this way is about 18 kton P2O5/year (8 kt P/year).


In countries with intensive livestock farming, manure can pose a problem since its spread on arable land is often limited by regulations. Much as with WWTP sludge, manure can be treated in an incinerator, or treated in a dedicated plant. The first category is currently being developed in the UK and the Netherlands, where incinerators for poultry manure are operational or under construction. Unfortunately, this ash has also too much zinc (1500 mg/kg) and copper (600 mg/kg). Ash from pig manure typically contains double the amount of zinc. This and the low phosphate content (15-20% P2O5) make these materials unattractive for the P process. An interesting opportunity is the dedicated treatment of liquid calf manure to recover potassium struvite. This type of material is very pure and in theory suitable for P4 production. A plant test using this struvite was concluded successfully and the material will be used as feedstock for the phosphorus process on a regular basis.


The recent developments in the livestock industry (BSE, foot-mouth disease) have led to a change in the market for bone meal ash and DCP from gelatin producers. Both materials are technically suitable for use in the P process, provided that the chloride content is not too high. However, the issues associated with these diseases and the consequences for their re-use make it difficult to use them as raw materials for other applications.


Many industries produce phosphate waste streams, for example food and dairy processing, metal treatment and etching, electronics manufacturing and other processes that use phosphorus, phosphoric acid or phosphates. A large variety of phosphate-containing wet and dry materials result from the treatment of these waste streams. In The Netherlands, these contain at least 5 kt/y (as P). A large part of these materials is suitable for processing in the P process, depending on the nature of the material. A large problem in obtaining secondary phosphates from other countries is the waste legislation. It is usually not permitted to transport waste across the border, and many secondary phosphates are currently classified as waste. There is need for less rigid legislation and regulation on national and European scale, especially regarding the difference between waste materials and recyclable raw materials. This should prevent landfill of valuable materials. The current legislation creates barriers which discourage or prevent recycling.

You can contact us if you would like to learn more about Phosphate Recycling in Phosphorus Industry, our engineers will provide you with quality service.

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