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Assessing technology and innovation interventions in the metabolism of Greater London

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Oliver Heidrich, Professor Richard DawsonORCiD


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Cities use materials and energy and the way these flows are transformed and returned to the environment are important in addressing questions of sustainability, carbon reduction targets (Heidrich et al., 2013), and human behaviors affecting the transformation of materials, energy and the metabolism of the city (Kennedy et al., 2011). We use London as a case study to assess future technology and innovation interventions in its water and wastewater infrastructure (Villarroel Walker et al., 2014). The fluxes of water, energy, nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon and, in particular, the recovery of these resources, are quantified (under uncertainty) using Monte Carlo simulations and the Regionalized Sensitivity Analysis (RSA). We use a Multi-sectoral Systems Analysis framing (Villarroel Walker and Beck 2012) to study the combinations of water-sector innovations for four technologies: (i) Struvite production from urine, (ii) co-treatment of household organic waste in sewage treatment plants, (iii) pyrolysis of separated sewage sludge, and (iv) production of algae for biofuel in sewage treatment facilities. The environmental performance is assessed using some so-called Metabolic Performance Metrics. These are aligned with selected Key Performance Indicators associated with waste and emission reductions adopted by London (GLA, 2013). Using RSA, we determine whether targets are attainable, and how attainability could change if targets are made more stringent. We estimate the economic benefits of implementing the four technologies compared to London's current treatment infrastructure. Urine separation could recover 47% of the nitrogen in the food consumed, gaining $33M/a from fertilizer production. Collecting food waste in sewers and growing algae in wastewater treatment plants could beneficially increase the amount of carbon release from renewable energy by 66%, with potential annual revenues of $58 M from fuel production. We demonstrate that attaining targets depends on the resources and the selection of the best use of the given technological innovations. References GLA (2013) London Plan Annual Monitoring Report 9, 2011-12. London. Heidrich et al (2013) 'Assessment of the climate preparedness of 30 urban areas in the UK', Climatic Change, 120(4), pp. 771-784. Kennedy et al (2011) 'The study of urban metabolism and its applications to urban planning and design', Environmental Pollution, 159(8-9), pp. 1965-1973. Villarroel Walker, R. and Beck, M.B. (2012) 'Understanding the Metabolism of Urban-Rural Ecosystems: A Multi-sectoral Systems Analysis', Urban Ecosystems 15(4), pp. 809-848. Villarroel Walker et al (2014) 'The energy-water-food nexus: Strategic analysis of technologies for transforming the urban metabolism', Journal of Environmental Management, 141(0), pp. 104-115

Publication metadata

Author(s): Heidrich O, Villarroel-Walker R, Dawson R, Hall J, Beck MB

Editor(s): Roland Clift and Angela Druckman

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: International Society of Industrial Ecology-Taking Stock

Year of Conference: 2015