Twelve-Month Demonstration of GE ZeeLung* Technology Shows Potential to Intensify Nutrient Removal and Reduce Energy Consumption in Chicago

Sep 26, 2016


GE Booth # 6239


  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Demonstrated a Full-Scale ZeeLung Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) Cassette
  • ZeeLung Achieved Simultaneous Nitrification and Denitrification in a Small Reactor Volume
  • At Full-Scale, ZeeLung MABR Reduces Energy Demand for the Aeration System by about 30 Percent
  • Full-Scale Implementation Would Free Up Tank Volume to Enable Phosphorus Removal without Additional Infrastructure 

NEW ORLEANS-September 26, 2016-GE (NYSE: GE) today announced the results of a year-long demonstration of GE’s ZeeLung* Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (ZeeLung MABR) technology by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The demonstration proved the potential of the technology to upgrade the O'Brien Water Reclamation Plant in Skokie, Illinois, to intensify nutrient removal and enable enhanced biological phosphorous removal in existing tank volumes without the need to build new infrastructure; improve the performance for total suspended solids and ammonia removal during cold temperatures; and reduce energy demand of its aeration system by about 30 percent over the current mode of operation.

The MWRD partnered with GE to demonstrate ZeeLung in its pursuit of energy neutrality and to meet more stringent phosphorus regulations. The goal, over the year-long demonstration period, was to evaluate ZeeLung’s ability to intensify nutrient removal compared to conventional activated sludge and reduce energy consumption for aeration. This would expand the capacity of the existing aeration tanks to allow enhanced biological phosphorous removal (EBPR) without additional infrastructure. The MWRD also assessed ZeeLung's ability to improve total suspended solids and ammonia removal, which are both benefits of the system’s ability to increase biomass inventory without increasing mixed liquor suspended solids concentration.

"GE’s new ZeeLung MABR offers an innovative way for us to meet future regulations for nutrient removal within the plant’s existing footprint. In addition, the decreased energy needed to treat the water helps us move toward our goal of becoming energy neutral by 2023,” said Thomas Kunetz, assistant director of engineering, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

The demonstration results, supported by process modeling, show that the 30 percent energy demand reduction would be achieved if about one-third of the facility’s reactors were converted into anoxic zones where MABR membranes are immersed to provide supplemental nitrification capacity in the existing reactor volume. This intensification of nutrient removal would free up sufficient tank volume to accommodate an anaerobic zone for EBPR without the need to build a new battery of tanks.

“We believe that the future of wastewater treatment is energy neutrality,” said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO-water and distributed power for GE Power. “With the potential to reduce energy demand as well as intensify nutrient removal, ZeeLung MABR can help wastewater treatment facilities move from significant energy users toward becoming energy neutral facilities. GE is proud to develop technologies, such as ZeeLung MABR, to advance the wastewater treatment industry."

Results from the demonstration will be used by the MWRD for projecting the performance and installation costs of a full-scale configuration and for comparison against other phosphorus removal options.

The technical results will be part of a paper presented at WEFTEC 2016 titled “Demonstration of Innovative MABR Low-Energy Nutrient Removal Technology at Chicago MWRD.”

First launched at WEFTEC 2015, ZeeLung is a gas-transfer membrane that transfers oxygen by diffusion to a biofilm that grows on the outside surface of the membrane. The microorganisms in the biofilm remove nutrients and organics in the wastewater by metabolizing them in the presence of oxygen. The result is four times greater efficiency than conventional fine bubble aeration.

For the MWRD demonstration, a full-scale MABR cassette in a side-stream configuration was installed at the O'Brien Water Reclamation Plant and tested from June 2015 to June 2016. Installation and startup was accomplished in a simple manner through immersion in the plant mixed liquor for biofilm inoculation. The biofilm was fully established in four weeks and provided treatment representative of steady-state conditions. The nominal capacity of the pilot equipment was 1.9 million liters per day (0.5 million gallons per day). The study was complemented with a process modeling exercise to optimize the operational parameters.

About the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Established in 1889, the MWRD ( is an award-winning, special purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and stormwater management in Cook County, Illinois.

About GE

GE (NYSE: GE) is the world’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the "GE Store," through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry.

About GE Power

GE Power is a world leader in power generation with deep domain expertise to help customers deliver electricity from a wide spectrum of fuel sources. We are transforming the electricity industry with the digital power plant, the world’s largest and most efficient gas turbine, full balance of plant, upgrade and service solutions as well as our data-leveraging software. Our innovative technologies and digital offerings help make power more affordable, reliable, accessible and sustainable.

For more information, visit the company's website at Follow GE Power and GE’s water business on Twitter @GE_Power and @GE_Water and on LinkedIn at GE Power.

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Beth Coffman
Soteryx Corporation
+1 518 886 1076