Technological Centre

LIFE ULISES Project – Wastewater treatment plants as a new model of urban biorefinery

CETIM has been awarded a new LIFE project, adding a new milestone in the portfolio of the Techonogical Centre. LIFE ULISES, whose objective is the transformation of wastewater treatment plants into a new model of urban biorefinery, focusing on energy self-sufficiency and the concept of complete recovery of waste, sludge and water, through the use of different innovative technologies low cost, producing biofuels, fertilizers and quality water suitable for irrigation.


LIFE ULISES project, co-financed by the European Commission under the LIFE Program, is made up of FCC Aqualia (leader), EnergyLab, Almería University, and CETIM. The activity will begin throughout the month of September, will last 36 months and has a budget of approximately 2 million euros.


The current wastewater treatment system demands a high energy consumption that can comprise up to 40% of the total operating costs of a WWTP.


A paradoxical situation since wastewater has great potential for energy production that remains buried in sewage sludge and is only partially recovered in the production of biogas through combustion. In this context, LIFE ULISES will focus, in a first phase, on minimizing energy demand through a new anaerobic pretreatment process and an innovative aeration system, as well as increasing the production of biogas in the plant and its use as fuel of transport, in order to achieve a self-sufficient treatment plant from the energy point of view.


The transformation of sludge into biofertilizers and the reuse of water, after eliminating emerging pollutants such as pathogens, will be carried out in two pilot plants designed and built exclusively for this project at the El Bobar WWTP, Almería.


The final phase will consist of a test in a 600 m2 crop field to demonstrate the recycling and valuation strategy of these hidden “nutrients” in line with the first circular economy package of the European Union and the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the United Nations on Water.


CETIM participation
Within the project, from CETIM we will work on the recovery of nutrients from the sludge of the WWTP, carrying out culture tests that demonstrate the agronomic performance of biofertilizers; We will design the two pilot plants for nutrient recovery – biosolids enzymatic hydrolysis plant and liquid digestate treatment plant, obtaining water on the one hand for reuse in irrigation and on the other, a concentrate for the precipitation of struvite – we will also be responsible for the construction of this pilot plant and we will participate in the validation of both pilot plants in El Bobar. Likewise, we will also be responsible for preparing the Replicability and Transferability Guidelines, and we will collaborate continuously with FCC Aqualia in the techno-economic coordination of the project.