A ground-breaking piece of equipment which will capture ammonia from sewage, with the potential to turn it into green fuel for vehicles, has arrived at Northumbrian Water’s Howdon Sewage Treatment Works. 

Over the next three weeks, work to install the special piece of kit, which strips ammonia using heat from wastewater, will be underway. Once fully operational, it will be the first time in the world that a water company has ever recovered ammonia from wastewater using this technique. 


Generated by the natural breakdown of proteins in wastewater, ammonia is a widely used building-block for valuable chemicals. For example, in the production of fertiliser or pharmaceuticals, or used to help develop green fuels.   


Since the pioneering idea successfully won a £225,000 funding bid from the water regulator, Ofwat, back in 2021, work on the partnership project with Organics Group, has rapidly progressed.


A high-tech facility, which was purpose-built at the Organics factory in Thailand has now been brought into the UK and is on site at Howdon, North Tyneside. Once commissioned the facility will use clever technology to strip and capture the ammonia from wastewater, generating fertiliser products and green fuels that may be used in the emerging hydrogen economy in future.  


Removing ammonia will also have a number of benefits for Northumbrian Water’s wastewater treatment process, making it more efficient by reducing overall energy demand and ultimately helping to keep customer bills as low as possible. 


By minimising emissions from the biological treatment process, it will also help to accelerate the company towards its ambitious goal of achieving net zero in 2027. 


The Howdon site already creates green power using Advanced Anaerobic Digestion and Gas to Grid technology. These processes are also in place at the company’s Bran Sands treatment works on Teesside and makes Northumbrian Water the only water company to use 100% of its wastewater sludge, previously a waste by-product of treatment, in this way. 


Angela MacOscar, Head of Innovation at Northumbrian Water, said: “We are extremely excited by the Organics Ammonia Recovery project. To have the equipment physically on site and in the process of being installed marks a significant step forward, not just for us, but for the UK and the entire water sector as a whole. 


“This pilot project is going to have a massive environmental impact, drive us towards our net zero targets, and ultimately contribute to the Government’s green gas and renewable fuel agenda. We’re very excited to see the benefits of this project for our customers and the environment.” 


Dr Robert Eden, Managing Director of the Organics Group, said: “We are delighted to be part of the Northumbrian Water team on this world-first. This project builds constructively on 25 years of extensive experience that Organics has with ammonia recovery systems.  


“The technology is designed to provide water companies with a cost-effective alternative to conventional denitrification systems, and will generate opportunities, not only for ammonia-based products but also for enhanced decarbonisation of the global water sector.” 


Northumbrian Water is leading the project, in partnership with Organics Group, Anglian Water, Cranfield University, Warwick University, and the consulting engineer WSP.