Assessing the environmental performance of a novel coal mine brine treatment technique: A case in Poland

G. A. Tsalidis*, K. Panteleaki Tourkodimitri, K. Mitko, G. Gzyl, A. Skalny, J. A. Posada, D. Xevgenos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Although the energy transition results in decreased use of coal for power production, hard coal extraction will continue due to its importance in steel production and coal mine wastewater will continue generating after mines closure. The coal mining sector produces wastewater which results in environmental burdens and often contains valuable materials that can be treated to eliminate effluent discharge and recover contained materials. The aim of this study is to determine whether the implementation of a novel wastewater treatment technique in an existing coal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) can improve both environmental performance and resource recovery potential. Our study assesses for the first time the environmental performance of the WWTP of Dębieńsko at the Upper Silesian Coal Basin, in Poland because coal mine effluents need to be treated to eliminate current environmental impacts on surface water bodies (rivers). The existing wastewater treatment system comprises reverse osmosis, evaporation and crystallization technologies. In the case of the novel ZERO BRINE technique, lab performance data is scaled-up and used for nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, electrodialysis and crystallization technologies. The environmental impacts analysis is performed with life cycle assessment (LCA) by considering mid-point impact categories (climate change, terrestrial acidification and fossil resource scarcity) and end-point damages (human health, ecosystems and resources). The functional unit is 1 m3 of coal mine wastewater input and a scenario is developed where the plant functionality concerns salt production. Results show that the implementation of the ZERO BRINE technique can improve the environmental performance of the WWTP for all considered impact categories due to a reduction in electricity consumption by 13% in the entire plant. Climate change, acidification, fossil resources scarcity, human health, ecosystems, and resources were improved by 16%, 13%, 12%, 25%, 21% and 13%, respectively. A sensitivity analysis is performed on the electricity consumption of electrodialysis which shows an additional improvement by 7% on all impacts. The ZERO BRINE technique produces both water and different types of salts. In this case, the multi-functionality of the system is addressed through substitution, while sensitivity analyses are carried out using mass and economic allocation methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131973
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Acidification
  • Circular economy
  • Climate change
  • Fossil resources scarcity
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Zero liquid discharge


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