About the Omni Processor Technology Portfolio

Almost 1 billion residents of urban areas around the world rely on onsite sanitation systems, including septic tanks and latrine pits. All too often, waste from these systems ends up in the environment. If not properly emptied, these systems can back-up and overflows can occur. Even when emptied, the collected fecal sludge is often dumped indiscriminately into rivers and fields. (Visit Susana’s SFD site for further insight on the fate of fecal sludge in cities around the world.) This is because most urban areas lack adequate facilities to treat fecal sludge from on-site sanitation systems – and many more lack adequate facilities to treat the sludge from wastewater treatment plants (often referred to as biosolids). 

Stemming from the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011, the Gates Foundation’s “Omni -Processor” portfolio was conceived to “reinvent the sewage treatment plant” to help address this challenge. An “Omni-Processor”, or OP, is an innovative treatment system that treats sludge to achieve complete pathogen destruction while generating useful byproducts that can help offset project costs. The OP is a component of a full fecal sludge or biosolids treatment plant- further detail on the required pre-processing and liquid treatment is described below.

Different communities may need different treatment capacities and different approaches. The BMGF OP portfolio currently consists of three core technologies that can be scaled to suit the needs of the community: the J-OP, Tide Technocrats pyrolysis, and Duke University super-critical water oxidation. Learn more about the OP technologies here.

Resources Available on the Omni Processor

STeP has developed numerous market assessments for the Omni Processor technology portfolio in order to inform design, potential market sizing, and go-to-market roadmaps, as well as robust value proposition analysis and business case development. Given the J-OP’s state of development, many of the studies are focused on this technology. However, the approaches can be applied to all OP technologies, and many of the insights are also relevant.

The following key questions are addressed:

What is the global market opportunity for the Omni Processor portfolio? What are the use cases for the Omni Processor technologies?

Omni Processors have the potential to be an attractive solution to provide safe fecal sludge management to those people dependent on onsite sanitation systems. In a study of 10,000 cities across 24 low and middle-income countries, nearly 80% had some need for fecal sludge management. Various factors will affect whether an Omni Processor is the best solution in a given city and what technology is most appropriate. Examples include existing infrastructure (particularly the presence of sewer networks), quantity of available fecal sludge, costs of fecal sludge collection and transport, and the cost of competing solutions. Forthcoming STeP resources will explore the characteristics of high priority OP market segments in India and guide project developers towards cities of fit. Existing diagrams and tools highlight common use cases for the J-OP and help answer the questions:

  • What is the global market size for the J-OP?
  • Which cities could have adequate fecal sludge volumes to support a system?

What are the economics of the OP portfolio? How do I build the business case (including output valuation)?

Evaluating the economic performance of an OP is a critical step towards determining fit with market needs. A key characteristic of any Omni Processor is the production of valuable byproducts (e.g. electricity, heat, clean water, fertilizer). These byproducts can significantly improve the economics of treating fecal sludge by offsetting project costs. But estimating their value can be hard, and values can be highly localized. The reports below provide tools and insights into what STeP has learned about valuing byproducts in addition to a preliminary market assessment for coolant, drinking and distilled water products in Senegal. If you would like to analyze project economics in a given country, visit the database we put together of various byproduct values STeP and other Gates Foundation partners have collected in recent years.

What is the value proposition of the OP?

A clear and compelling value proposition is critical to driving market uptake of the OP. That value proposition must be based on the specific needs of a given customer. Equally important is a clear value proposition for all influential stakeholders in the fecal sludge management ecosystem. For example, an OP project would not be successful if there was a strong value proposition for a OP operator, but no incentive for the fecal sludge exhauster truck firms to supply sludge to the OP. Take a look at an example value proposition for the J-OP for one Indian city we looked at, as well as the diagram which illustrates potential aspects of a value proposition to be considered more generally.

What are the go-to-market considerations?

The fecal sludge landscape within a country can significantly shape how a technology supplier might go-to-market. Important aspects of this landscape include: the size of the market, suitability of local feedstock, the policy and regulatory environment, the existence of potential partners, and the availability of project finance. If necessary, measures can be taken to “prime” the market for entry. Institutional capacity building and policy reform can create an enabling environment for non-sewered sanitation. In preparation for a commercial scale J-OP, Dakar, Senegal is addressing fecal sludge supply challenges by undertaking numerous initiatives aimed at improving desludging service efficiency and increasing demand.

STeP has developed resources to explore the questions of: how does a partner enter the market? Where have successful models been established? And how can a city attract investment for a new OP? The reports below summarize our findings.