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Planned sewerage sludge treatment with integrated phosphorous recovery

The establishment and operation of a sewerage sludge incinerator plant with integrated phosphorous recovery is the future project for the Müllverbrennung Kiel (MVK, Kiel waste incineration plant). The deliberations regarding the establishment of a sewerage sludge incinerator plant at the MVK location began as early as 2014. It became official with the implementation of the new Sewage Sludge Ordinance (AbfKlärV) on 03.10.2017. At the end of 2018, MVK commissioned the engineering firm Dr. Born & Dr. Ermel with the general planning of the plant. Following the execution of the approval after public consultation in 2019/2020, the first partial permit was issued in February 2021. The tender for the establishment of the plant shall be issued in 2021. The construction phase will be approx. 2.5 years, thus a launch date in 2024 is anticipated.


Sewerage sludge incineration with integrated phosphorous recovery

With regards to the background of the planned sewerage sludge incinerator plant with integrated phosphorous recovery, the new Sewage Sludge Ordinance and the Fertilisation Ordinance specify that, from 2029, sewage sludge can no longer be distributed as fertiliser in fields to protect the ground and drinking water. The main reason is the encumbrance of the sewage sludge with pharmaceutical residue (among other antibiotics), heavy metals and synthetic materials (microplastics). One alternative option for utilising the sludge is a thermal application, i.e. incineration, which has already been practiced for several years. At the same time, the legislator stipulated that the recyclable material phosphorous has to be recovered from the sewage sludge and channelled back into the economic cycle. This also applies for the annual 30,000 tons (raw substance) of Kiel sewage sludge of the Bülk sewage treatment plant.

The necessity of future sludge disposal as well as experience from more than 40 years of waste incineration at the Theodor-Heuss-Ring site have led MVK to the decision to take on the planning of an additional incineration line for the conversion of 32,000 tons of sewage sludge into dry substance annually. Simultaneously, a partner was sought via an EU-wide invitation for tenders for the tasks which cannot be handled by MVK:

  • Recovery of phosphorous from sewerage sludge ash
  • Sewerage sludge acquisition
  • Security of disposal in case of revisions and plant malfunctions of MVK
  • Sewerage sludge transports

Negotiations are currently being conducted, and these will be completed in 2021.

Environmental and climate protection

The central component of all planning is the best-possible protection and benefit for people and the environment. With the planned sewerage sludge incineration, MVK can provide carbon-neutral district heating for a further 4,000 Kiel households from 2024. Therefore, MVK is an inherent component of the city’s master plan for 100% climate protection status, and provides a significant contribution towards the climate-neutrality of the state capital Kiel. The mono-incineration of the sludge via an internal line offers the technical opportunity to recover the vital and finite raw material phosphorous contained in the ashes. This is just as important to MVK as being able to extensively integrate the new systems components into the existing structures. A further bonus for the environment is the processing of the water contained in the sewage sludge. In the future, it will be possible to replace 35,000 cubic metres of the fresh water required annually today for the operation of the waste incineration plant with water from the sewage sludge.

Funding through EU-Life

The environmental advantages of the sewerage sludge incinerator plant with integrated phosphorous recovery have also been convincing at a European level. The MVK project has become part of the EU Commission's "Green Deal" through funding from the EU "Life" project.