SDTC SUCCESS STORY | Partnering for real results. Meeting environmental goals. Moving cleantech to market.
May 1, 2017 – Read original case study
At a Glance
Ostara has successfully developed and commercialized a technology that recovers nutrients from wastewater streams and transforms them into an environmentally safe, continuous-release fertilizer. In addition to sustainably recovering otherwise polluting nutrients, the fertilizer produced from the process releases in response to plant demand, reducing the risk of leaching and runoff, further protecting waterways. Ostara’s nutrient recovery technology is both economically feasible and environmentally sound, providing a win-win solution for wastewater treatment plants.
Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have long been on the front line of defense against nutrient pollution. As point sources of easily and readily measured nutrient discharge, the opportunity existed to improve plant performance in such a manner as to positively impact the environment. Turning WWTPs into resource recovery centers—where water, energy and nutrients are recovered and recycled—dynamically changes the face of a sector previously seen as one that contributed to the pollution of water, air and land.
Ostara’s nutrient recovery technology seeks to improve the performance and operation of WWTPs. Designed to recover phosphorus—a non-renewable resource needed to feed the planet—the technology solves a significant environmental issue while solving a common nuisance problem (the build-up of struvite in pipes) in municipal WWTPs; traditional methods of removal and dumping of nutrients are costly, and neither elegant nor environmentally sound.
Ostara’s solution, where excess nutrients are not viewed as waste but as a useful byproduct, presented a lucrative business model for the company. Ostara is able to sell both the innovative technology to solve WWTPs’ operational and environmental problems and also benefit from a second revenue stream created through the sale of the process byproduct. Ostara buys back the fertilizer from the WWTPs and sells it through their marketing and distribution network within the agricultural, turf and ornamental industries, providing a share of the revenue to the municipality or WWTP operator.
SDTC provided early support to Ostara, helping the company demonstrate its nutrient recovery technology, previously only seen in pilot form at the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s Lulu Island wastewater treatment plant and at the City of Penticton’s advanced wastewater treatment plant. Scaling up the technology by a factor of 100, in 2007, Ostara launched a demonstration facility at the City of Edmonton’s Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Facility. The project not only proved the successful scale-up of the company’s nutrient recovery technology to commercial scale but also demonstrated the production of a highly pure byproduct of the process, a Root-Activated™ phosphorus fertilizer.
Ostara’s proprietary technology recovers phosphorus and nitrogen from treated wastewater streams by providing a controlled setting within a fluidized bed reactor in which the nutrients crystalize and grow into highly pure fertilizer granules. Once they reach the desired size, they are harvested, dried, bagged and distributed under the brand name Crystal Green®.
Unlike conventional phosphate fertilizers, which release nutrients upon watering or irrigation, Crystal Green is virtually water insoluble and releases phosphorus in response to organic acids produced by growing roots, fertilizing plants on demand. Ostara is now producing Crystal Green, marketing and distributing the fertilizer to large-scale agricultural producers, golf courses and turf/sod producers.
Successful Demonstration leads to Fast Commercialization
Due to the successful demonstration of its nutrient recovery technology in Edmonton in 2007, Ostara was able to attract clients throughout North America and Europe. Within one year of demonstration, Ostara signed its first commercial contract with the City of Tigard, Oregon. The client, Clean Water Services, is one of the most progressive and highly rated utilities in the USA. The forward-thinking facility was an early adopter of the technology and successful operations there led to other opportunities for Ostara. To date, the company has commercially launched seven facilities in North America, one in Europe, and is preparing to bring six more on line in 2016, including the world’s largest nutrient recovery facility in Chicago. Coming full circle, Ostara will also launch a full-scale plant in Edmonton that will be 20 times the size of the original demonstration facility when it opens in Spring 2016.