Decreasing the Energy Use in Wastewater Treatment

EPA Grant Number: SV839490
Title: Decreasing the Energy Use in Wastewater Treatment
Investigators: Lampert, David , Thomison, David , Stine, James
Current Investigators: Lampert, David , Stine, James , Thomison, David , Wiseman, Rabecca , Rui, Cai , Ahmadvand, Maryam , Atoufi, Hossein , Pamula, Abhiram , Erra, Rachana , Overacker, Nick , Barnes, Dominique , Shaw, Madelyn , Robison, Brooks
Institution: Oklahoma State University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: II
Project Period: May 1, 2019 through April 11, 2020 (Extended to April 30, 2021)
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2019) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources


Previous estimates indicate that municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) consume between 0.8% and 3% of all electricity in the United States. WWTPs remove organic matter to prevent dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations from dropping in water bodies that receive effluent. Aeration processes in WWTPs utilize microorganisms and energy-consuming blowers to remove the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) from wastewater. Many facilities supply excess oxygen to ensure water quality compliance with little thought to the energy costs. The problem is pervasive in smaller communities with limited resources and WWTP personnel. The overall goal of this project is to develop an operational technology to reduce aeration costs in WWTPs and assess the potential for such a technology to reduce energy usage and the associated pollution. The technology will use a network of sensors and algorithms to adjust the aeration inputs to activated sludge processes as DO and BOD fluctuate to meet regulatory constraints with minimal energy consumption. The specific objectives are to: 1) generate a large dataset of reactor performance over a range of operating conditions in a lab-scale system, 2) develop and parameterize a predictive model of the process, 3) demonstrate the capability to minimize aeration and ensure BOD compliance using the model, 4) create a process model for a full-scale facility using the data from the lab- scale research to assess potential performance and cost savings, 5) apply the design to operate the Stillwater WWTP for a beta testing.


A prototype aeration control system is currently being developed to reduce energy usage in WWTPs while ensuring water quality compliance. The prototype contains a network of sensors to monitor pH, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates, and ultraviolet-visible light absorbance. A series of digital aeration control valves in a lab-scale WWTP can be used to adjust oxygen delivery. A data acquisition system collects sensor output, which is uploaded to an online directory for retrieval and analysis by the aeration flow-control computer. The lab-scale WWTP will be used to generate the data needed to develop process models and control algorithms. Machine-learning algorithms will be developed to predict the effluent BOD as a function of the applied aeration and the current conditions reported by the sensor network. The model will be analyzed across a range of parameter values to determine the control method that minimizes the energy input subject to the constraint of meeting the effluent BOD requirements. A process model for the Stillwater WWTP aeration basin will be run over a variety of conditions and used to forecast the effluent BOD and energy consumption under different oxygen delivery methodologies. A beta test of the new technology will be performed in the final stages of the project.

Expected Results:

The results of this project are expected to provide proof of concept for an aeration control system to reduce energy costs at mid-sized WWTPs. Environmental risks associated with pollution generated by energy consumption will be reduced. The implementation of the proposed technology will help to modernize aging wastewater infrastructure that the public depends upon for healthy waterways. The project will improve sustainability and make a visible difference to people in the local community. The results have the potential to benefit all society, since pollution mitigation improves the lives of all the planet's citizens. The technology developed in this project will increase prosperity by reducing energy costs.

Financial benefits to future stakeholders are possible if the technology is adopted in other locations. The results will provide education in sustainability principles to both the student team and the project stakeholders. The diversity of the team will create a valuable educational experience that will provide benefits beyond the project. The project directly supports the research aims of the P3 Program to improve human health and well-being, advance economic competitiveness, and protect and preserve the environment by effectively and efficiently using water, materials, and energy and minimizing pollution. The project also addresses the goals of the EPAs 2018-2022 Strategic Plan by improving air quality while continuing to provide Americans with clean and safe water.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Engineering, clean technologies, waste reduction, life-cycle analysis, modeling, monitoring, sustainable development, south central, states: Oklahoma, OK

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2019 Progress Report

  • P3 Phase I:

    Decreasing the Energy Use in Wastewater Treatment  | Final Report