ISTC awarded over $400,000 to assist Illinois manufacturers

ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program has been awarded over $400,000 in EPA grants to assist manufacturers with improving their bottom line by greening their operations. Assistance under these grants are provided at no-cost to participating companies.

The funds cover work with manufacturers and their supporting industries across many sectors including:

ISTC Technical Assistance Program scientists work collaboratively to identify and promote sustainable manufacturing at the product, process and system level, resulting in minimized waste, improved energy and resource efficiency, reduced negative environmental impacts and increased profitability.

For additional information, please contact Irene Zlevor | izlevor@illinois.edu | 217.300.8617.

Sierra Club of Illinois hosts panel discussion on PFAS with Rob Bilott, John Scott, other water advocates

On Monday, October 5, the Sierra Club of Illinois hosted a conversation about PFAS with Rob Bilott,  an attorney, advocate, and author whose story inspired the film Dark Waters; ISTC senior chemist John Scott; Fred Andes, a Chicago attorney whose practice focuses on water issues; Cheryl Sommer,  vice-President of United Congregations Metro-East.

A recording of the conversation is now available.

Caseyville Wastewater Treatment Plant saves energy, money with ISTC assessment and Ameren Illinois incentives

The Caseyville Township Water Reclamation Facility recently received a free facility assessment through Illinois EPA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assessment Program. The program is a partnership between Illinois EPA, ISTC, and the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC).

ISTC conducted the assessment in July 2019 and identified several ways to reduce energy use, including upgrading to LED lighting and  installing variable frequency drives on blower motors. The plant used Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program incentives to help fund the upgrades.

Altogether, the lighting and motor upgrades will reduce the township’s energy use by more than 2.3 million kilowatt-hours every year and deliver six-figure savings in annual energy costs.

Read the full Ameren Illinois case study detailing the upgrades.

New project uses biochar to absorb excess nutrients from tile drainage

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

In a new $1 million three-year project, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researchers will develop a bioreactor and biochar-sorption-channel treatment system to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus from tile drainage water, which will reduce nutrient loss from crop fields to local waterways.

Excess nutrients in surface water contribute to harmful algal blooms that produce toxins and threaten the health of water ecosystems. A variety of treatment techniques have been studied to reduce nutrient losses.

Woodchip bioreactors, which are buried trenches, have proven to be a cost-effective and sustainable solution to reduce nitrate-nitrogen loss from tile-drained crop fields. However, concentrations of ammonium-nitrogen are often elevated after water has flowed through a bioreactor. Also, woodchip bioreactors do not have a significant effect on phosphorus removal.

Principal investigator Wei Zheng and colleagues plan to develop an innovative treatment system by integrating woodchip bioreactor and designer biochar treatment techniques to reduce the losses of both nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from tile drainage.

Designer biochars are applied in biochar-sorption-channels to capture dissolved phosphorus and ammonium-nitrogen simultaneously. Researchers will seek to produce the most efficient designer biochars by pyrolysis of biomass pretreated with lime sludge.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded project will evaluate the new system by conducting a scale-up field study at a commercial corn production farm.

Researchers will also apply the nutrient-captured biochars as a soil amendment and a slow-release fertilizer in fields to improve soil fertility.

The results from this project will help federal and state agencies and farmers evaluate their current nutrient management practices, inform science-based regulatory programs, and offer an innovative, feasible, and cost-effective practice to mitigate the excess nutrient loads to watersheds, prevent and control algal blooms, and improve agricultural sustainability.

Media contact: Wei Zheng, 217-333-7276, weizheng@illinois.edu, news@prairie.illinois.edu

New project is set to find ways to manage emerging contaminants

By Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

Scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) are tackling the issue of pharmaceutical contaminants from irrigation with rural sewage effluents in a newly funded project.

Collaborating with the Illinois State Water Survey, principal investigator Wei Zheng has begun a three-year study to investigate emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), in fields irrigated with effluents from rural sewage treatment plants and to develop effective strategies to reduce the amount of contaminants transported to surface or groundwater.

Rural sewage effluent has great potential as an alternative to irrigation water, yet there are concerns about possible negative effects. Rural treatment plants are less effective at removing PPCPs compared to municipal wastewater treatment plants. Therefore, the use of effluents might pose a risk to surface and groundwater ecosystems.

Also, field tile drainage systems, which are commonly used in the Midwest, may accelerate the losses of these chemical contaminants from agricultural soils to nearby watersheds. The potential negative effects of using rural sewage effluent to irrigate tile-drained fields are essentially unknown.

In this project, the research team will conduct a series of laboratory, field, and numerical modeling studies to investigate the processes affecting contaminant transport, track the occurrence of PPCPs, and develop two cost-effective control techniques, oil capture and biochar-sorption channels.

The results will help federal and state agencies and farmers evaluate their current nontraditional water-use practices, inform science-based regulatory programs, and suggest best management strategies to minimize risks and promote the safe and beneficial use of nontraditional water in agriculture.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Media contact: Wei Zheng, 217-333-7276, weizheng@illinois.edunews@prairie.illinois.edu

ISTC researchers develop improved method for microplastics analysis

Since the emergence of mass-produced plastics in the 1940s, the global appetite for these materials has rapidly increased. Estimates of cumulative plastic waste generated are as much as 6.3 billion metric tons. Less than 10% of this material is recycled, while nearly 80% is sent to landfills or released into the natural environment. Because of this, microplastics are now ubiquitous in the environment. Their presence has been detected in surface waters, groundwater sources such as Karst waters, sediments, wildlife, and even consumer products.

The major drawback with current microplastic sample preparation and counting is that researchers use different methods. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was the first to publish a standard method to measure these materials. However, it only addressed large plastic debris in surface water and beach samples. Furthermore, it can only isolate and account for materials with a density less than 1.2 g/cm3. Many microplastics, including polyvinyl chloride, polyesters, and fluoropolymers, have a density greater than 1.3 g/cm3 and are unaccounted for in preparation by NOAA’s method.

When the researchers analysed samples from the Lake Muskegon and Missouri surface waters, they discovered that they would have missed the most abundant microplastics, those less than 300 µm, if they had processed them using the standard NOAA method. Their new method achieves a lower size detection limit and greater microplastic density limit.

The researchers also designed an innovative reporting method that uses detailed size measurements of the microplastic in the sample. This new approach for data reporting allows researchers to estimate the mass of microplastics present. This measurement is important because although particle sizes can change in a sample, the overall mass remains the same.

Following development, the researchers demonstrated the method with surface waters collected from three locations and fish larvae samples archived by the Illinois Natural History Survey.

The work is detailed in ISTC’s new research report, Development and Demonstration of a Superior Method for Microplastics Analysis: Improved Size Detection Limits, Greater Density Limits, and More Informative Reporting.

Carbon capture collaborations lead clean energy drive

ISTC and ISWS Director Kevin OBrien with University of Illinois System President Timothy Killeen at City, Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.
ISTC and ISWS Director Kevin OBrien with University of Illinois System President Timothy Killeen at City, Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.

By Tiffany Jolley

The Prairie Research Institute is leading a drive toward a clean-energy future. This is the first installment of our ongoing series surrounding PRI’s state-of-the-art clean energy research. Part one introduces projects happening across PRI that implement innovative CO2 reduction strategies, an essential step toward reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases at an industrial scale.

PRI is collaborating with three Illinois power plants (Prairie State Generating CompanyCity Water Light, and Power, and the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant) to implement sophisticated technologies that remove carbon from air emissions (carbon capture).

Three PRI surveys, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), and Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), along with partners Kiewit Engineering GroupMitsubishi Heavy Industries America, and Sargent & Lundy, are working to complete a front-end engineering design (FEED) study for the retrofit of the Prairie State Generating Company in Marissa, Illinois.

The goal is to design a system to capture more than 90 percent of carbon emissions at the facility and incorporate additional carbon offset strategies to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions. The FEED study is made possible through a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy that is administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and $3.75 million from Prairie State Generating Company.

ISTC also is overseeing a large pilot test of the performance, safety, and environmental compliance of a carbon capture technology developed by Linde Gas North America and BASF at City Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.

The aim of this project is to design, construct, and operate a 10 megawatt (MWe) carbon capture system at one of CWLP’s coal-fired generators. The project team has successfully completed the planning and evaluation of this technology at the plant. The design phase that is now in progress will produce a shovel-ready plan for construction.

The effort has the potential to be the foundation for more easily accessible and attainable carbon capture systems at other facilities around the world, depending on the outcome of a $45 million DOE grant with a $20 million match from the state of Illinois. The DOE received nearly 30 proposals from power plants across the country for the grant, which is now narrowed down to five final candidates – CWLP being one.

If selected, ISTC would embark on the construction of a CO2 separation unit at CWLP’s 200 megawatt Dallman Unit 4 using state-of-the-art air emission control technology as early as May 2021.

Abbott Power Plant currently hosts two DOE-funded carbon-capture research projects. In the first, ISTC is working with Linde to test three technologies for reducing aerosol particle concentrations in flue gas. This work is intended to help make solvent-based carbon capture technology more economical at commercial scales.

The second project, led by ISGS in a joint effort with ISTC and Trimeric Corporation, is working to advance the early development of a CO2 absorption technology at 40 kilowatt (kWe) following successful proof-of-concept and lab-scale development research.

This technology uses a novel biphasic CO2 absorption process that involves applying a proprietary solvent developed by ISGS researchers for post-combustion CO2 capture, an approach that could dramatically improve energy efficiency, lower the equipment cost and footprint, and maintain operational simplicity.

This post originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute blog.

CWLP could become world’s largest carbon capture research station

The Springfield Journal- Register recently ran a story about ISTC’s carbon capture project at City Water, Power, and Light’s Dallman unit 4.

The project was also highlighted by Public Power Magazine, a publication of the American Public Power Association.

The DOE-funded project is currently in the design phase. The phase three proposal, which will fund construction, is due in January. If DOE selects ISTC’s Phase Three proposal, construction would probably begin next May or June, kicking off the five-year project.