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A multivariable advanced control solution for sustainable operation of nutrient removal urban WWTs (artICA4nr)

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A large percentage of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Europe and in the rest of the world are still being operated below optimum achievable performance. This underperformance becomes apparent in the form of treated water discharges that are not compliant with water quality standards as well as low efficiencies in terms of energy consumption. In this context, the art-ICA (advanced real time – Instrumentation, Control and Automation) controllers are a novel advanced control solution for biological nutrient removal WWTPs that, when applied, immediately lead to significant improvements in these systems in terms of the quality of the treated water combined with appreciable savings in electricity.Although the technical feasibility of the art-ICA controllers has already been proven in two real Spanish plants (the Galindo WWTP, 1.5 MPE –Population Equivalent–, and the Mekolalde WWTP, 50 kPE), two major factors have kept the art-ICA controllers from being accepted in the market more quickly:
  1. The wastewater sector is, in general, reluctant to incorporate new solutions that are not fully consolidated in the market;
  2. The investment costs associated with the art-ICA controllers are still considered relatively expensive for wastewater operators.
The artICA4nr (art-ICA controllers for nutient removal) project aims to overcome the above barriers through further replication of the art-ICA controllers in four WWTPs in Spain and Portugal.


The number of European WWTPs in which the art-ICA controllers might be installed today is above 10000, which amounts to a total pollution load above 400 MPE. We expect that by 2021 the art-ICA controllers will be working in about 78 wastewater treatment facilities. If such estimates come true this product will lead to the following: energy savings of above 4 GWh/year, reductions in CO2 emissions by around 1160 t CO2/year, and reductions of nitrogen in water discharge by around 1000 t N/year.  


The environmental benefits of the art-ICA controllers lie in their ability to noticeably improve the performance of current wastewater treatment processes. This performance will become apparent in the form of:
  1. Lower levels of pollutants in treated effluents
  2. Reductions in electricity consumption
At the end of the project (2016) the replication of the art-ICA controllers in four real-world biological nutrient removal plants has given rise to the following performance: reductions in CO2 emissions of around 450 t CO2/year, to savings in electricity above 0.73 GWh/year, and to reductions of nitrogen emissions in the treated effluents that are close to 70 t N/year.During the project, the product has been exhibited in two international fairs: Efiaqua (2015) and iWater (2016). Morevover, as part of the exploitation activities, the owner of art-ICA, MSI, has recently founded a new  ESCO model (Energy Service Company) company which will operate as a new sales channel for the product. 

Partners and coordinator

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Paseo Manuel de Lardizabal 15
20018 San Sebastian
Contact point: 
Jose Ignacio de Carlos


In brief

01/07/2014 to 31/12/2016
Contract number: