Cost-effective treatment of swine wastes through recovery of energy and nutrients

Adib Amini, Veronica Aponte-Morales, Meng Wang, Merrill Dilbeck, Ori Lahav, Qiong Zhang, Jeffrey A. Cunningham, Sarina J. Ergas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Wastes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are challenging to treat because they are high in organic matter and nutrients. Conventional swine waste treatment options in the U.S., such as uncovered anaerobic lagoons, result in poor effluent quality and greenhouse gas emissions, and implementation of advanced treatment introduces high costs. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to evaluate the performance and life cycle costs of an alternative system for treating swine CAFO waste, which recovers valuable energy (as biogas) and nutrients (N, P, K+) as saleable fertilizers. The system uses in-vessel anaerobic digestion (AD) for methane production and solids stabilization, followed by struvite precipitation and ion exchange (IX) onto natural zeolites (chabazite or clinoptilolite) for nutrient recovery. An alternative approach that integrated struvite recovery and IX into a single reactor, termed STRIEX, was also investigated. Pilot- and bench-scale reactor experiments were used to evaluate the performance of each stage in the treatment train. Data from these studies were integrated into a life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) to assess the cost-effectiveness of various process alternatives. Significant improvement in water quality, high methane production, and high nutrient recovery (generally over 90%) were observed with both the AD-struvite-IX process and the AD-STRIEX process. The LCCA showed that the STRIEX system can provide considerable financial savings compared to conventional systems. AD, however, incurs high capital costs compared to conventional anaerobic lagoons and may require larger scales to become financially attractive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-517
Number of pages10
JournalWaste Management
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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