The University of Guelph is taking part in a novel $1.5-million initiative – backed by the federal government – that aims to eliminate energy costs for waste water treatment.

The announcement was made today by Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield on behalf of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

U of G will work with partners to test new ways to reduce energy consumption while generating energy from the waste water treatment process

“Canada is committed to investing in clean energy technology producers because clean technologies – such as those that will result from this project – have the potential to advance the way communities manage their resources, consume energy and improve quality of life,” said Longfield.

U of G will work with GE Water and Process Technologies, along with McMaster University, to test new ways to reduce energy consumption while generating energy from the waste water treatment process and using beneficial resources from waste water.

It’s the first large project to receive funding under the Southern Ontario Water Consortium’s (SOWC) Advancing Water Technologies (AWT) program, which supports collaborative, industry-led technology development projects and is funded by FedDev Ontario through a $12-million contribution announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for U of G,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

“Waste water treatment is critical to human health and environmental sustainability. This project will bolster the University of Guelph’s great strengths in water research and help improve life.”

The project aims to achieve energy neutrality in waste water treatment by reducing demand and by recovering energy from biogas.

U of G will work with GE to test new anaerobic digestion technology, using advanced bio-solids treatment to improve biogas production and kill pathogens.

The research will be done at the University’s cutting-edge waste water pilot facility. Built in partnership with SOWC and the City of Guelph, the facility uses variable waste water streams from the municipal waste water treatment plant for technology testing and demonstration.

The pilot facility is headed by engineering professor Ed McBean, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Water Supply Security. Engineering professor Sheng Chang is U of G’s lead researcher on the project; GE’s new technology research lead is Youngseck Hong.

U of G will receive $368,000 out of a total of nearly $600,000 being provided through the AWT program. GE will provide $900,000 for the project.

“GE is excited to be part of this project,” said Glenn Vicevic, product management executive with the company.

Explaining that waste water treatment uses substantial amounts of energy, he said, “The ability to reduce energy consumption while increasing production is an opportunity to transform the economic and environmental sustainability of waste water treatment. By working with SOWC and the University of Guelph on this pilot, we are gathering critical data to improve energy recovery and bring new technology to market.”

With its waste water pilot facility, U of G is among 10 post-secondary institutions that work with industry under the Southern Ontario Water Consortium.

“This first large AWT project epitomizes what SOWC is all about,” said Brenda Lucas, the consortium’s executive director. “We connect the needs of industry with Ontario’s academic expertise and enable real-world testing in unique facilities to help bring innovative technologies to market.”

During the event, Guelph MPP Liz Sandals also announced $500,000 worth of funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science (MRIS) for the GE project and other innovative waste water treatment projects involving Ontario companies.

“We are proud to be a part of this important pilot,” said Sandals. “Our government is committed to finding innovative new ways to conserve energy. Supporting projects like this is part of our plan to fight climate change, strengthen the economy and create jobs.”

The consortium was created in 2011, backed by a $60-million combined investment from FedDev Ontario, MRIS, IBM Canada, and university and industry partners.

Other schools involved in the SOWC are Fleming College, Queen’s University, Ryerson University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Western University and Wilfrid Laurier University. The City of London and the City of Guelph are also partners.