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Advanced Anaerobic Digestion, Nutrient Recovery and Innovative Initiatives such as Sludge Retail in the United Kingdom to Kick-start an Upswing in the Market
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Innovative business models such as asset management and sludge retail followed by disruptive applications like hydrogen fuel from sludge will drive the circular economy of European sludge treatment systems market. Europe is an established market with respect to sludge treatment. However, many utilities in the region suffer from ageing infrastructure where retrofits and rehabilitation will be the key market along with technologies addressing micropollutants in sludge. The recent approval granted by the European Commission for fertiliser generated sludge will serve as one of the key drivers as it minimises waste, lowers energy consumption and also reduces the risk of phosphorus shortage.
From a circular economy perspective, sludge is an excellent resource from which many benefits can be reaped. This study estimates the size of the circular economy of European sludge treatment systems market in 2018 and forecasts the market size till 2025. The market is broadly classified into two segments, namely sludge treatment systems and sludge recovery systems. Sludge treatment systems include the following sub-segments– sludge thickening & dewatering, sludge digestion and sludge drying. Sludge recovery systems, on the other hand, consist of nutrient recovery and alternate materials. The sludge treatment systems and recovery market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 6.51% from 2019 to 2025.
The sludge treatment systems market was estimated at $3.2 billion in 2018. The sludge nutrient recovery equipment market was estimated at $150.9 million in the same year and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 13.2% until 2025. The European Union (EU)’s new Fertiliser Regulation will open the European market for nutrients from sludge and also nutrient recycling technologies. The regulation covers organic, organo-mineral and mineral fertilisers, composts and digestate from the food industry as well. Other key market drivers include declining phosphorus reserves leading to the need for recovery of phosphorus from sludge and innovative technologies and business models for recovery of nutrient and energy from sludge.
Energy recovery from sludge is expected to increase at a CAGR of 5.0% from 2018 to 2025. Though the share of renewable energy from biomass is less compared to other forms, there will still be a steady increase in energy generated from biogas. Anaerobic digesters are commonly used for biogas production. Advanced anaerobic digesters (AADs) can be used to significantly enhance the benefits of anaerobic digestion.
This study also addresses visioning scenarios relevant to the circular economy of European sludge treatment systems. The scenarios discussed are social and demographic trends, industry mega trends, new business models, urbanisation, connectivity and convergence, disruptive technologies and the competitive landscape. Demographic trend has influences on the quality of sewage sludge. For instance, micropollutants in sludge are caused due to human activities. Changes and trends in population growth and behaviour influence the use of pharmaceuticals and other products that contain micropollutants. Disruptive applications like fuel from sludge will gain traction in the future with the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme investigating the possibilities of extracting and processing fuel for automobiles from sewage sludge. If this option is deemed economically feasible, it will soon become a reality. The mega trends covered in the study are circular economy, sustainable cities, smart is the new green, innovation to zero and climate change. While the impact of circular economy is the highest, climate change has the lowest impact as a megatrend.
Asset management is one of the key new business models covered in this study. It has emerged as the key battleground where players operating utilities are extending their offerings to incorporate asset-centric products and services to increase operational efficiency, and as well reduce their energy and operating costs.
Sludge has many applications, one of the latest of which is obtaining hydrogen fuel from sewage sludge. The demand for alternate fuel is not going to reduce and companies will always find innovative ways to use the hydrogen fuel from sludge. Real-time monitoring of sludge is also gaining traction as it not only optimises operations of a treatment facility, but also the use of treatment chemicals, thereby reducing operational expenses of the plant.
Apart from disruptive technologies, new business models and strategic partnerships will also play a significant role in the market.
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