WaterProof: urban Waste and water Treatment Emission Reduction by utilizing CO2 for the PROduction Of Formate derived chemicals

Converting CO2 through electrochemistry

Starting soon, the new research project WaterProof aims at closing the waste(water) carbon loop by creating a novel biorefinery concept converting CO2 emissions from urban waste treatment facilities into valuable green consumer-products. The objective is a technology resulting in a GHG reduction based on CO2 utilization, replacement of fossil feedstock and industrial electrification.


The Project

The WaterProof project aims at developing an electrochemical process that converts CO₂ emission captured from consumer waste incineration and wastewater treatment facilities into formic acid to be used in valuable green consumer products such as cleaning detergents and the tanning of fish leather apparel. Additional products of the electrochemical process are peroxides that can be applied to remove pharmaceuticals and pesticides from wastewater. Furthermore, formic acid is used for the generation of acidic deep eutectic solvents (ADES), that can be applied to recover precious metals from wastewater sludge and incineration ashes. As the electrochemical process uses renewable energy, it contributes to a clean water cycle with zero-emission.
WaterProof enables the closing of the waste(water) carbon loop and the shift from fossil to renewable carbon sources. It hereby supports the transition towards a climate-neutral Europe and an effective and truly circular economy.

Formic acid for cleaning detergents and sustainable fish leather made from waste(water) CO2

The project consortium aims at realising specific goals:

  • Tapping renewable carbon sources by replacing fossil carbon with renewable carbon feedstocks,
  • Climate neutrality by reducing GHG emission of waste(water) facilities and by electrifying the industry,
  • Circularity by connecting the waste sector, the chemical industry and the users of renewable chemicals,
  • Social responsibility by evaluating WaterProof’s environmental impact and providing new job opportunities in innovative industries.

Maximum impact through multi-level approach

The WaterProof project aims at maximising scientific, economic and societal impact and support the goals of the HORIZON Europe Actionplan. These impacts include

  • Improving and validating technologies and products. At the end of the project the WaterProof Technology will be available for deployment at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 8-9 and strengthen the EU’s leadership in the technology sector;
  • Creating a new green, flexible and digital way to build and produce consumer goods;
  • Contributing to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan for a cleaner and more competitive Europe;
  • Reducing waste and CO₂ emissions and turning them into valuable renewable feedstock;
  • Replacing fossil feedstock and decrease reliance on fossil imports;
  • Raise societal awareness and sensitivity for climate and environmental issues and acceptance for sustainable solutions.

Work Packages

This WP will demonstrate the development of multiple technologies and processes for the conversion of CO2-emissions to formic acid paired with innovative water treatment technologies. WP1 focusses on the following objectives:

  • Technology development and optimization of the full conversion chain from CO2 to formic acid.
  • Catalyst development and optimization for the anodic formation of H2O2 in paired electrolysis.
  • Testing of new advanced oxidation processes (AOP) on actual effluent wastewater samples.
  • Development and synthesis of novel Acidic Deep Eutectic Solvents (ADES) from formic acid for the recovery of metals from wastewater sludge.

The WP covers the upscaling of the CO2-conversion process in order to produce sufficient amounts of formic acid and ADES. It focusses on the following objectives:

  • Definition of the specifications of the components of the CO₂ Conversion Pilot Facility and further downstream processing.
  • Engineering of the WaterProof CO2 Conversion Pilot Facility with TRL6.
  • Scale up, validation and manufacturing of electrodes for the CO2 Conversion Pilot Facility.
  • Manufacturing, installation and integration of the CO2 Conversion Pilot Facility at the site of WAT and HVC.
  • Testing and optimisation of the CO2 to formic acid conversion process.

This WP focuses on the specification of formic acid products derived from recycled CO₂, their circularity in the value chain and the validation of these value-added applications:

  • Formic acid for use in cleaning products 
  • Formic acid used in fish leather tanning 
  • Formic acid for the formation of ADES for metal recovery from waste streams 

One focus of this WP is assessing the environmental, economic and social impact of the WaterProof process. A second objective is to ensure transferability and replication potential of the concept and related knowledge in order to maximise scientific progress.

  • Assessing ecologic, economic and social benefits and impact by using validated comprehensive analyses, such as multi-level stakeholder analysis, (S-)LCA, and TEE.
  • Extensive data-collection of a broad stakeholder range including consumers.
  • Creating an outlook by assessing transferability of the WaterProof concept and creating commercialisation strategies.

This WP focuses on effective coordination management, communication and dissemination of WaterProof results including:

  • Overall legal, contractual, ethical, financial and administrative management in accordance with the grant agreement
  • Maintaining communication with the European Commission and involved partners
  • Continuous assessment and mitigation of project risks
  • Tailoring the dissemination strategy to various stakeholder groups
  • Maximising project impact by initiating public and scientific dialogue on the project’s results
  • Capturing, evaluating and protecting potentially valuable intellectual property