Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office (IEDO) announced $28 million for 10 projects that will drive innovation to decarbonize the entire life cycle of Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRFs). These facilities, which treat wastewater from public water systems, are among the country’s largest industrial electricity users with full lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on par with direct emissions from the entire food and beverage industry— one of the largest GHG-emitting industries in the United States. The selected projects will accelerate research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of technologies to lower GHG emissions from WRRFs and move the U.S. closer to a net-zero economy by 2050.

WRRFs are an essential part of our nation’s water infrastructure, simultaneously producing clean water, generating renewable energy, recovering nutrients from wastewater, and reducing our impact on the natural environment. However, cleaning water is an energy intensive process. WRRFs are estimated to be directly responsible for over 44 million metric tons (MMT) of GHG emissions each year. A large portion of these emissions include nitrous oxide and methane, which are both more powerful GHGs than carbon dioxide and are emitted throughout the water treatment process.

IEDO selected projects in two topic areas. The first topic includes seven projects focusing on reducing GHG emissions from specific unit processes within WRRFs while maintaining or decreasing operating costs. These projects will prove out innovative technologies in a number of WRRF processes and components, including strategies to recover and capture nitrous oxide instead of emitting it into the atmosphere and developing an automation platform with advanced controls and algorithms for reducing GHG emissions from biological nutrient removal.

The second topic includes three projects focused on reducing GHG emissions and treatment costs for entire WRRF treatment trains at large scales and higher levels of technological readiness. Selectee project examples include the simplification of treatment processes, cost-effective integration of green hydrogen into the renewable energy management systems in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and improving carbon diversion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Learn more about the 10 selected projects.

Learn more about IEDO and its work to advance basic RD&D across the four pillars identified in DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap. IEDO’s efforts in this area are part of DOE’s new Technologies for Industrial Emissions Reduction Development (TIEReD) Program which leverages resources across DOE’s applied research offices to invest in fundamental science, research, development, initial pilot-scale demonstrations projects, and technical assistance and workforce development. Read more about TIEReD and DOE’s strategy to decarbonize the nation’s industrial sector.