Aurea® removes micro-pollutants with minimal CO2 footprint

Royal HaskoningDHV and Wageningen University have developed Aurea®, the most sustainable solution for removing micro-pollutants from water.
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Pharmaceutical residues, hormones, antibiotics, and crop protection agents: micro-pollutants are ubiquitous in our environment, posing a threat to aquatic ecosystems and consequently our sources of drinking water. Research conducted by RIVM indicates that approximately 500 tons of new pharmaceutical residues are flushed into our sewage systems annually, of which sewage treatment plants can only remove 310 tons. The remainder finds its way into our environment.

Thus, sewage treatment plants represent a significant pathway for micro-pollutants to enter the environment. “That's why the European Directive on Urban Wastewater was established”, says Arnoud de Wilt, Consultant Micropollutants & Wastewater Technology at Royal HaskoningDHV. “This directive requires sewage treatment plants to remove 80% of micro-pollutants, while also demanding that this has to be done in an energy-neutral and circular manner.”

To assist sewage treatment plant operators in meeting these objectives, Royal HaskoningDHV and Wageningen University have developed the Aurea technology. Aurea demonstrates removal efficiencies exceeding 90%, according to De Wilt. “Aurea achieves this with less energy consumption and a smaller CO2 footprint compared to conventional techniques, resulting in lower operational expenses.”

Aurea combines two existing effective technologies: a biological adsorptive filtration phase (such as biological activated carbon filtration) with a chemical oxidative treatment phase (such as ozonation or advanced oxidation processes). One of Aurea's key energy savings lies in its innovative biological activated carbon filtration (BACF), says De Wilt.
Aurea Effluent Bacf Ozone Discharge

“Conventional activated carbon treatment frequently regenerates the activated carbon filter, a highly energy-intensive and costly process, resulting in a loss of 15 to 20% of activated carbon per regeneration. What's unique about Aurea is that the activated carbon is never regenerated. By creating the right conditions, BACF facilitates the growth of specialized microorganisms that break down a significant portion of the micro-pollutants.”

This greatly benefits the second process step, ozone treatment for the removal of remaining micro-pollutants. Pre-treatment with BACF enables ozone dosing at very low levels. As a result, the energy consumption of this ozonation step is 50 to 75% lower than a conventional ozone installation.

The technology not only aids regional water authorities in improving the polluted aquatic environment but is also applicable to drinking water production sites and industrial wastewater treatment plants. In addition to future implementations at purification plants in Zeist and Weert, there is already considerable interest among Dutch regional water authorities. “With the revision of the European Directive on the horizon there is a lot about to happen. This means there is a great incentive for future implementations of sustainable technologies for micro-pollutants removal,” says De Wilt.


Aurea has been honoured with the prestigious Vernufteling Award in 2024. Presented annually by Koninklijke NLingenieurs in collaboration with industry magazine De Vernufteling, this award recognises Aurea’s innovative technology and groundbreaking approach to addressing environmental challenges and improving water quality. The technology stood out as a prime example of engineering excellence with a significant societal impact, setting a new standard in advancing sustainable solutions for water treatment.  
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Learn more about the latest, sustainable solution for removing micro-pollutants from water, combining two existing effective technologies.
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