Washington, DC - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the winners of the first phase of competition for the Water Resource Recovery Prize. Launched in January 2020, the Water Resource Recovery Prize accelerates resource recovery from municipal wastewater across the United States. In this two-phased competition, DOE seeks novel, systems-based solutions from multidisciplinary teams at small- to medium-sized water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs).

Through cost-effective and innovative engineering solutions, WRRFs can progress toward the federal goal of doubling water resource recovery by 2030, which can be accomplished by shifting conventional wastewater treatment to a model of resource recovery from municipal wastewater.

In the first phase of competition, teams submitted an engineering schematic and business case demonstrating the potential for cost-effectiveness and viability of resource recovery. Teams selected during phase one will move into phase two, in which up to two teams will be selected to receive $250,000 cash prizes. Only small- and medium-sized facilities (those with flows of up to 50 million gallons per day) were eligible to participate.

The phase one winners are:

  • Sebastien Tilmans and Craig Criddle from Stanford University partnered with Ken Stedman of MicroMedia Filtration Inc. to propose using advanced filters to separate solids early in the wastewater treatment process. The solids are then dried and combusted to produce electricity to power the wastewater plant.
  • Mike Holland, Marcello Pibiri, Brent Perz, Carl Cacciatore, Marc van Dongen, and Chad Kuze  proposed using a combined heat and power unit, a solar power system, and a micro-hydroelectric generation system to enable Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District to reach net-zero energy by 2025.
  • Kobe Nagar, Marc Deshusses, Simon Lobdell, and Mohammad Abu-Orf of Orange Water and Sewer Authority proposed an innovative process to treat wastewater sludge and eliminate contaminants and pathogens in an energy-efficient way.
  • Lauren Greenlee, Shelby Foster, Michael Watts, Sean Scuras, and Kenneth Komiske proposed using a magnesium electrode reactor to produce fertilizer, avoid chemical salts and biosolids, and produce hydrogen.
  • Islam Genina, Andrew Tsang, Elliott Donlon, Hannah Hoffmann, Kanika Ghakar, and Jordan McDormatt proposed using a waste-to-energy system developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to safely transform sewage sludge into biocrude oil, both generating revenue and reducing the environmental and public health impacts of wastewater treatment.
  • Casey McKinne, Bob Ohlund, Marina Foster, and Mark Lehmann from Crystal Clearwater Resources, LLC’s Low Temperature Distillation (LTDis) Technology proposed using a simplified treatment process that relies on heat from a microturbine power generator to save energy and lower the environmental impact of the brine disposal.
  • Dan Spracklin and Jeremy Taylor of SoMax BioEnergy partnered with the Borough of Phoenixville Wastewater Treatment Plant to propose resource recovery via hydrothermal carbonization of organic waste as means of biomass conversion and resource recovery.
  • Regina Rodriguez, Jack Drwiega, and Beau Kostedt of Carbonxt partnered with Steve Suau at Progressive Water Resources on a sustainable phosphorus recovery technology proposal to highlight the benefits of innovative technologies for phosphorus removal from wastewater.
  • Michael Smith of Impact Bioenergy partnered with team members from MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions and Energy Efficiency Finance Corporation to develop an integrated biodigester resource recovery project using renewable energy from a wastewater treatment plant.
  • James Oyler and John L. Willis proposed a process to convert wastewater sludge into renewable biocrude fuel resources such as natural gas and methane.

The Water Resource Recovery Prize, launched by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Advanced Manufacturing Office, was developed with feedback from industry stakeholders in response to a Request for Information issued by EERE in fall 2019. This prize is part of the Water Security Grand Challenge, a White House-initiated, DOE-led framework to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water. It supports the Water Security Grand Challenge goal of doubling resource recovery from water resource recovery facilities by 2030. The prize also supports EERE’s American-Made Challenges, which incentivize the nation’s entrepreneurs to strengthen American leadership in energy innovation and domestic manufacturing.