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Revolutionary KAUST water treatment technology to be driven by MODON

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THUWAL – King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technological Zones (MODON) are teaming up to tackle wastewater treatment.

KAUST Associate Professor Peiying Hong has developed a new zero-energy technology that may hold the key to transforming sustainability and wastewater recycling. MODON is piloting the new large-scale wastewater bioreactor technology in its industrial city of Jeddah.

Water has long been a precious resource in Saudi Arabia due to its extreme climate. The government is committed to ensuring the sustainability of its water supply and working to both maximize and reuse it, including 100% treated wastewater by 2025.

However, most wastewater that reaches treatment facilities is cleaned using an aerobic process. A process that is both energy-intensive and produces a large volume of sludge, the disposal of which is costly.

“The relationship between KAUST and MODON is a great example of how universities and industry partners can work together to solve real challenges in our society and in a city like Jeddah where we need to increase wastewater treatment capacity” , said Kevin Cullen, Vice President of Innovation at KAUST.

“This technology not only treats wastewater more efficiently using a decentralized treatment model, but it can also be done in an energy-neutral way, which ensures sustainability for the future.”

Professor Hong has developed an alternative solution that solves the energy demand and sludge production problems using patented Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (AnMBR) technology.

AnMBR is energy neutral, decentralized and produces at least 10 times less sludge volumes. It is important to note that the produced water can be used for non-potable purposes such as green landscaping and urban agriculture – as the effluent produced by the system retains nutrients that plants could benefit from.

MODON, which operates major infrastructure across the Kingdom for environmental services, including wastewater treatment plants, selected Hong’s technology to pilot on-site in its 1st industrial city of Jeddah.

KAUST and MODON have collaborated on numerous research projects, including the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2019.

This has cemented a common line of action between the organisations, including KAUST as the R&D partner for MODON’s range of businesses across the Kingdom and targeting key issues and challenges facing the country, such as water sustainability.

Qusai Al-Abdulkarim, director of the marketing and corporate communication department and spokesperson for the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technological Zones (MODON), reiterated MODON’s commitment to implementing basic research projects and applied across all sectors, including areas related to sustainability, the environment, conservation of natural resources, and improved utilization and operational efficiency.

This commitment, however, will be implemented through a range of unique partnerships with many local and international academic institutions and universities such as KAUST, thus enabling the transfer and localization of modern technologies in industrial cities and strengthening the dynamics of transformation. digital.

This is in addition to the adoption of the applications of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). This will be achieved as part of MODON’s strategy to enable the industry and increase local content in line with its central role in Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP).

The pilot plant will treat 25,000 to 50,000 liters of wastewater per day, playing a strategic role in meeting Saudi Arabia’s water needs. MODON chose to pilot the AnMBR on such a scale because it will be the first demonstration of wastewater cleaning with minimal energy costs in the region. The pilot reactor is currently operational on the MODON site.

“The MODON site will demonstrate the entire anaerobic membrane bioreactor system coupled with an appropriate disinfection strategy. We want to demonstrate the whole process in terms of energy costs and operating costs,” Professor Hong said. “Our goal is to understand if it can be more competitive with existing treatment technologies.”

In the future, urban environments will need to find ways to recycle water more efficiently to cope with a warmer climate and water stress caused by population growth. Promoting water reuse at zero energy cost can help achieve this environmentally sustainable goal.

The AnMBR is an example of advanced, yet usable technology developed at KAUST. The university is ready to partner with innovative organizations to implement this type of technology at scale and calibrate it under real-world conditions.

With water reuse being a key goal of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the potential for significant impact from this breakthrough highlights how KAUST is commercializing technologies that can benefit the Kingdom.

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