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Rising Commodity Prices Driving Wastewater Resource Recovery Feasability

luxWith rising commodity prices, recovering of resources from wastewater — especially oil, precious metals and industrial fats, oils and greases — is becoming increasingly feasible, according to a report from Lux Research.

Over the past decade, crude oil prices have risen nearly three-fold while the value of precious metals has soared over 250 percent, making recovery of these commodities attractive. Growing demand for biodiesel amid a restricted supply of feedstocks drives recovery of industrial fats, oils and greases. However, current economics don’t favor lithium and phosphate recovery, according to the report, Recovering Valuable Resources from Wastewater.

Lux Research analysts evaluated the emerging landscape of recovery technologies and found that:

  • Spiraling oil price drives recovery. Oil prices over $100/bbl help make recovery of oil from wastewater streams viable. Drillers using new techniques, like hydraulic fracturing, have not caught up to established best practices for oil recovery, and commonly lose 6 -to-10 percent of their extraction via wastewater. An investment of up to $7 million in recovery for these drillers pays for itself in the very first year of operation.
  • Soaring use of biodiesel makes industrial fats, oils and grease recovery attractive. Skyrocketing biodiesel production – from 14 million gallons in 2003 to 17.1 billion gallons globally in 2013 – is the chief driver of fats, oils and grease recovery. Promising technologies include new methods to recycle industrial fats-, oils- and grease-water mixtures and processes to convert recovered fats, oils and greases into animal food, soaps, or other inedible products.
  • Regulation can aid unviable segments. Regulation can enhance recovery technologies by providing support to segments that are currently economically unviable. The “zero discharge” policies of Norway, for example, brought about recovery of virtually all oil from water used in drilling. Argentina and Chile are pursuing similar methods in mining, aiding recovery of less expensive metals.
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