Like all wastewater treatment, meat and poultry processing facilities present their own set of challenges and considerations when planning, designing, engineering and executing the construction of systems to manage wastewater.

Wichita, Kan.-based UCI Industrial Construction Services offers general contractor and construction management services on large capital projects for a variety of industries including agriculture, energy, water, chemicals, industrial manufacturing and transportation.

“Recently we have been involved as a construction manager on several wastewater plants as well as waste-to-energy projects for meat processors throughout the Midwest,” said David Odell, vice president of pre-construction at UCI. “UCI has constructed many water and waste facilities for municipalities bringing valuable experience to the meatpacking industry.”

UCI has recently worked with both Kansas City, Mo.-based National Beef and Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms on major wastewater management projects at the companies’ beef processing plants.

Design and construction

While extensive knowledge and experience with municipal wastewater treatment and management facilities provide UCI with a solid foundation for working in the meat processing industry, specific challenges exist in processing and slaughtering plants.

In general, wastewater from a meat processing facility is more robust and corrosive. Design and construction must take this into consideration when choosing materials for these projects to ensure they will hold up under the unique conditions. Another consideration that applies to meat processing is building or working in operational plants while avoiding loss of production, and because most plants are located in remote areas, supply chain and labor availability can also present challenges.

Normally, contractors would only be responsible for construction, but Odell said with integrated project delivery a contractor could conceivably take on the role of designer builder through working with a designer.

“Integrated project delivery such as design-build or construction management at risk (CMAR), is the way the projects are usually accomplished,” Odell said. “These types of contracts allow for UCI to work with the designer and owner in early stages of the work through preconstruction activities.”

Once roles have been decided and the major executives involved have worked out the contracts, collaboration begins and all the stakeholders meet face to face, or virtually, to review plans and discuss value-engineering concepts.

“Value engineering is a creative, systematic approach to providing the essential functions of a project at the best value,” Odell said. “It is an open and collaborative review of the project that considers life cycle costs, performance, quality, reliability, safety, and most of all potential cost impacts. All team members are encouraged to think about what is best for the project first.”

Traditionally, meat processors have relied on municipalities concerning the treatment of wastewater, but Odell said the trend has begun to shift toward companies treating their own wastewater “in house.” A key benefit of this trend is the processing plant’s ability to capture resources and revenue from the treated water and waste. This comes in the form of reusable water, irrigation, land applied sludge and the potential for waste-to-energy options.

“The trend is for owners to take a more active role in treating their waste and potentially creating a revenue through waste reuse,” Odell said. “Processing plants are always looking for reliability in their utilities and infrastructure to assure maximum production. These needs open a channel for design builders or CMAR teams to collaborate early in a project with owners and designers. UCI has seen an uptick in these markets and is seeing many opportunities in the future.”

WastewaterTreatments smallerest.jpgFluence Corp. wastewater systems allow processors to harness unused energy.



New York-based Fluence Corp.’s branch in Padua, Italy, specializes in waste-to-energy wastewater and byproduct treatment and management for meat and poultry processing plants. While markets and regulations differ between the United States and Europe, Fluence Corp.’s system offers advantages on both continents. However, the company is still in the process of selling and building its first system in the United States.

“The Italy branch has great experience in waste-to-energy plants for poultry and beef slaughterhouses, in Italy and abroad,” said Laura Silvello, marketing manager with Fluence Corp. “We have some plants in Argentina and in Spain, basically all over the world, but we are the leader in Italy for this kind of treatment, mainly at poultry slaughterhouses but also for cattle and pigs as well.”

In essence, Fluence Corp. designs facilities at the plant to gather and treat wastewater and byproducts and turn them into biogas to be used by the company.

“We produce renewable energy from the wastewater,” Silvello said.

This gives Fluence Corp.’s solution to wastewater treatment and management, used mainly in Europe, the ability to keep costs much lower than previous methods by creating energy through the process.

In addition to high costs, disposal of sludge being one of the highest in Europe, other drivers of Fluence’s technology include electricity and thermal energy costs and the processor’s ability to discharge treated water into the environment and rivers within the legal limits allowed.

“We reduce the quantity of sludge that is produced by the company after the first treatment and then the company can produce renewable energy due to the treatment of the wastewater,” Silvello said.

Both the traditional method and Fluence’s method have dissolved air flotation (DAF). The DAF generates sludge and pretreated water. In the traditional method, the sludge goes to dewatering and is then disposed of, while the pretreated, or clarified, water goes to an aerobic treatment. The process consumes energy and chemicals making it costly.

The Fluence method incorporates a few extra steps to allow a greater energy yield and less sludge. Fluence combines primary (approximately 80% of the total organic load) sludge from the DAF system with effluent from rendering, where byproducts are treated, and sends this material to an anaerobic reactor to create biogas. The biogas can then be sent to the boiler for thermal energy or to cogeneration to create electrical energy. Also after DAF, secondary sludge passes through a nitrification/denitrification process, then through a final clarifier before it is “treated water.”

Amadori, a leading company in the Italian agro-food sector specializing in poultry installed Fluence Corp.’s wastewater technology at its Mosciano Sant’Angelo, Italy, poultry slaughter operation. The plant processes approximately 180,000 chickens a day and 27,000 turkeys a day. With Fluence’s DAF, anaerobic digestion with biogas production and electrical/thermal cogeneration, sludge dewatering, nitrification-denitrification and final clarification, the plant produces approximately 6,300 Nm3/day (normal cubic meters per day) of methane, 25,300 kWhel/day (kilowatt per hour of electricity per day) of energy production and 26,300 kWh/day (kilowatt per hour per day) of thermal energy.

Another of Amadori’s slaughter facilities and some of its biggest competitors have all acquired similar numbers with Fluence’s systems. The energy is used by the plant to lessen operational cost. In some instances, the processing facility can send its biogas to be refined with biomethane which can be injected back into the national grid.

In addition to multiple installations in Italy, Fluence Corp. has also built wastewater treatment systems abroad.

“We have just built the biggest anaerobic digester by Fluence Corp. in Argentina for ArreBeef S.A.,” Silvello said. “We also recently built another big one in Spain.”

UCI_Picture1 smallerest.jpgUCI has seen an uptrends in processing plant ownership taking a more active role in treating their wastewater. 


Market differences

“What I know about the US market is it has some anaerobic lagoons after the DAF, but the anaerobic lagoons receive just 20% to 25% of the organic load,” said Michele Ceccaroni, business development manager, Italy Operations, Fluence Corp. “So, they can produce biogas just from 20% of the load while we are producing the energy from the 80%. So compared to the solutions that are installed in the slaughterhouses currently, we can produce four times the energy/biogas produced in those wastewater treatment plants.”

Ceccaroni said one of the key reasons Fluence’s technology has not taken root in the United States comes from an oil created during the primary treatment of separating the sludge during the DAF process.

“So, there’s an earning potential for the solution used in the United States,” Ceccaroni said. “In certain cases, and places, it’s not legal in Europe, and when it is legal, the oil doesn’t bring a good price. In the US there is a good market for this kind of grease/oil. This is one reason our technology is not widespread in the US, but right now we are talking with some important players, and even if the price of this oil is really high, we’re seeing that the overall management is expensive.”

However, Ceccaroni said processing plants in the United States could be more receptive to Fluence’s technology due to both state governments and the federal government providing incentives for companies creating and using renewable energy, especially renewable natural gas (RNG).

“We have tried to sell this technology [to the United States] in the past,” Ceccaroni said. “Maybe we were not ready, maybe the US market was not so receptive. We didn’t do too much work in the US because – it is a great market, but – it is time expensive and cost expensive.

“Right now, there is sales activity. We haven’t sold any plants so far, but we are talking with some important players and we see that they are much more receptive compared to the past. So, I think right now there are many more possibilities thanks to the incentives because six or seven years ago there were not incentives.”