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Ammonia Recovery from Pig Slurry Using a Membrane Contactor—Influence of Slurry Pretreatment


Pig slurry contains sufficient amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for plant growth. If appropriately administered, this could substitute significant amounts of fertilizer. However, excessive fertilization with slurry causes environmental problems. To reduce environmental issues, solid-liquid separation or anaerobic digestion is needed to obtain a better distribution of nutrients. Solid-liquid separation produces a solid fraction rich in phosphorus and a liquid fraction containing ammonia, potassium, and high water content. Therefore, further concentration of ammonia is desired for any practical use. In this study, ammonia membrane stripping was carried out using polypropylene membranes and the impact of temperature, flow velocities, and liquid fraction pretreatment on the membrane contactor performance was tested. Sieved liquid effluents from a decanter centrifuge, a screw press, an AL-2 system (flocculation and filtration), and an anaerobic digester were tested. Since the properties of these liquid effluents vary, they might affect ammonia recovery. Thus, it is essential to investigate which effluent is most suitable as a feed for a membrane contactor and what is the cost of preprocessing. The mean ammonia mass transfer coefficient at 30 °C was found to be equal to 17 ± 2 × 10−3 m h−1. At 50 °C, it was found to be equal to 29 ± 2 × 10−3 m h−1 for all the tested effluents. This means that sieving after slurry separation or anaerobic digestion alleviates the influence the solid-liquid separation has on ammonia membrane stripping. However, the cost evaluation showed that solid-liquid separation using a decanter centrifuge followed by sieve draining is the cheapest of the methods investigated.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


A filter :

filter area (m2)

A m :

membrane area (m2)

A sieve :

laboratory sieve filter area (m2)

AL-2 system:

commercial flocculation and filtration system for solid-liquid slurry separation (AL-2 Teknik A/S, Hovborg, Denmark).

C f :

concentration of solids in the feed effluent (kg m−3)

C TAN(t):

TAN concentration at time t (g L−1)

C TAN0 :

TAN concentration at time zero (Initial effluent feed concentration in a membrane stripping experiment) (g L−1)


dry matter


collected liquid slurry effluents. i: 1–5 refers to different farms and pretreatments as shown in Fig. 1


collected liquid slurry effluents sieved through a 125-μm aperture sieve. i: 1–5 refers to different farms and pretreatments as shown in Fig. 1


collected liquid slurry effluents sieved through a 125-μm aperture sieve. i: 1–5 refers to different farms and pretreatments as shown in Fig. 1

g :

gravitational acceleration constant (m s−2)

h t.(t):

actual suspension level at time t (m)

K m :

overall mass transfer coefficient (m s−1)

L :

length of active filter area on belt filter (m)

M :

total sample mass in sieving experiment (kg)



R m :

filter medium resistance (m−1)


sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis

t :

time (s)

t 1 :

time at which sieving experiment starts (s)


total ammoniacal nitrogen


total Kjeldahl nitrogen


total solids

V f :

initial sample volume of feed for the membrane stripping experiment (m3)


volatile solids

V filtrate/t:

rate of filtrate production (m3 s−1)

α :

specific cake resistance (m kg−1)


hydrostatic pressure difference across filter (Pa)

η :

filtrate viscosity (Pa s)

ρ :

filtrate density (kg m−3)

χ :

experimental constant defined as χ = (ρ × g) / (η × α × (M / A sieve))


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The authors want to thank The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation for economical support. Further, we are grateful to M. Rishøj from GEA Westfalia for providing decanter centrifuge effluent (E2) and S. Skov for providing screw press effluent (E3). The authors’ thank E. Poorasgari and A. Farsi for help with gravitational draining tests and moreover H. Vestergaard Hemmingsen for the technical assistance in physical and chemical analyses of manure properties. Further, the authors want to thank The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation for economical support.

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Correspondence to Agata Zarebska.

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Zarebska, A., Karring, H., Christensen, M.L. et al. Ammonia Recovery from Pig Slurry Using a Membrane Contactor—Influence of Slurry Pretreatment. Water Air Soil Pollut 228, 150 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-017-3332-6

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  • Animal slurry
  • Membrane contactor
  • Ammonia recovery
  • Mechanical separators
  • Anaerobic digestion