Recovery of agricultural nutrients from biorefineries

Bioresour Technol. 2016 Sep;215:186-198. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2016.02.093. Epub 2016 Mar 2.


This review lays the foundation for why nutrient recovery must be a key consideration in design and operation of biorefineries and comprehensively reviews technologies that can be used to recover an array of nitrogen, phosphorus, and/or potassium-rich products of relevance to agricultural applications. Recovery of these products using combinations of physical, chemical, and biological operations will promote sustainability at biorefineries by converting low-value biomass (particularly waste material) into a portfolio of higher-value products. These products can include a natural partnering of traditional biorefinery outputs such as biofuels and chemicals together with nutrient-rich fertilizers. Nutrient recovery not only adds an additional marketable biorefinery product, but also avoids the negative consequences of eutrophication, and helps to close anthropogenic nutrient cycles, thereby providing an alternative to current unsustainable approaches to fertilizer production, which are energy-intensive and reliant on nonrenewable natural resource extraction.

Keywords: Fertilizer; Nitrogen; Phosphorus; Potassium; Wastewater.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Ammonium Compounds / chemistry
  • Ammonium Compounds / isolation & purification
  • Animals
  • Bioreactors
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Humans
  • Phosphates / chemistry
  • Phosphates / isolation & purification
  • Recycling
  • Waste Water / analysis*
  • Waste Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / isolation & purification*
  • Water Purification


  • Ammonium Compounds
  • Fertilizers
  • Phosphates
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical