LIFE Project Cover Photo

Waste Water sludge solar DRYing FOR energy recovery through gasification GAS

Reference: LIFE16 ENV/ES/000342 | Acronym: LIFE-DRY4GAS



Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the EU produce more than 10 million tonnes per year of dry sludge.

Article 14 of the Urban Waste Water Directive promotes the reuse of sludge, as long as there are no adverse effects on the environment. In Spain, WWTPs generate about 1.2 million tonnes of sludge; up to 82.6% of this is used as fertiliser in agriculture, 7.9% is landfilled and 5.1% is incinerated.

The Water Framework Directive promotes the recovery of the costs of water-related services. The transportation and disposal of sewage sludge accounts for 13% of a WWTP's total operating costs. These costs can be reduced through better drying of the sludge. If sludge is dryer the odour nuisance is also greatly reduced.

Current commercial techniques can achieve sludge with a dryness of 15-18%. Techniques that could increase the dryness percentage consume large amounts of energy and are therefore currently not commercially viable. A low-energy alternative sludge drying beds takes too long and is not effective at reducing odours.

Energy recovery is the preferred alternative when dry sludge cannot be used in agriculture. Gasification is the most environmentally-friendly means of energy recovery, with lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than incineration.


LIFE DRY4GAS proposes an innovative and highly replicable solution for the management and reuse of sewage sludge generated by wastewater treatment plants. It will develop a pilot plant to dry the sludge for use in energy generation, the construction industry and agriculture. The plant will incorporate a solar drying system and a thermochemical gasification process to dry the sludge and recover 120 MWh/year of energy by means of an organic Rankine cycle. The project will also evaluate the reuse of gasification ashes mixed with sewage sludge to make a better quality agricultural additive and study ways of reusing the ashes in the construction industry. The pilot plant will be built at an existing wastewater treatment plant in Torrepacheco, Murcia. This produces 2 200 tMH/year of sludge.


The project will contribute to the implementation of relevant EU policy and legislation:

  • The Sewage Sludge Directive and the Urban Waste Water Directive, by encouraging the sustainable use of sewage sludge in agriculture;
  • The EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package. CO2 emissions will be cut thanks to the generation of renewable energy in the drying process and smaller volumes of sludge requiring transportation.
  • The EU Circular Economy Action Plan and the Waste Framework Directive. The project will develop a green circular economy model by promoting the reuse of sludge for energy recovery, construction and agriculture; and
  • The Water Framework Directive, as the project promotes the recovery of the costs of water-related services by reducing sludge management costs.



    Expected results:

  • Development of a highly replicable system for adding value to sewage sludge;
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions by between 880 and 1 111 tonnes/year, as a result of the use of renewable energy in the drying process, the generation of electricity in the gasification process without burning fossil fuels and the reduction in transportation of wet sludge;
  • Production of 320 MWh/year and 640 MWh/year of electric and thermal power, respectively;
  • 67-83% reduction in wet sludge use in agriculture;
  • 53-72% reduction in noise generated by transport and odour nuisance due to the deposition of wet sludge;
  • 20% reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers and water consumption;
  • 20% increase in carbon sequestration in soil; and
  • A significant reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with using sludge in agriculture.

    Reference: LIFE16 ENV/ES/000342
    Acronym: LIFE-DRY4GAS
    Start Date: 03/07/2017
    End Date: 31/12/2023
    Total Eligible Budget: 2,927,677 €
    EU Contribution: 1,678,239 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT)
    Legal Status: PUBLIC
    Address: Avenida Complutense, 40, 28040, Madrid,
    Contact Person: Virginia PEREZ LOPEZ
    Email: Send Email
    Website: Visit Website

    LIFE Project Map



    • Bio-waste (including food waste)
    • Waste recycling
    • Waste water treatment


    • waste water treatment
    • waste recycling
    • building industry
    • sludge treatment
    • renewable energy
    • fertiliser


    • Directive 2008/98 - Waste and repealing certain Directives (Waste Framework Directive) (19.11.2008)
    • COM(2015)614 - "Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" (02.12.2015)
    • Directive 91/271 - Urban waste water treatment (21.05.1991)
    • Directive 2009/28 - Promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (23.04.2009)


    Name Type
    Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT) Coordinator
    AITESA-Spain Participant
    EXPANDER TECH S.L.-Spain Participant
    Entidad de Saneamiento y Depuración de aguas residuales de la Región de Murcia, Spain Participant
    Environmental, Health and Safety Techniques S.L., Spain Participant