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Solids Minimization: Are Thermal Processes the Answer?

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Solids minimization is the reduction of solids requiring further processing or disposal. Generally solids minimization is focused on improved or advanced biological or “wet” processes. These include advanced anaerobic digestion, some forms of thermal processing or pre-treatment to lyse cells, etc. The intent of these wet processes is to replace water contained in the biological mass and to maximize conversion of volatile material to energy. These processes are usually in conjunction with anaerobic digestion.

Thermal processes such as incineration, thermal drying, sludge-to-fuel, or gasification are usually “add-ons” to the wet processing to further reduce solids. In many cases, the process may use the energy contained in the solids to convert the solids. With thermal drying, dehydration of the water associated with solids reduces the mass of the solids while producing a fertilizer or fuel product. With incineration, the solids are oxidized and only ash remains. Thermal processes minimize solids for re-use (fertilizer, ash or fuel) or disposal (ash).

This paper compares various solids reduction processes ranging from no reduction to thermal drying and incineration. Alternatives representing these configurations are presented with solids reductions expected, final product quality, space requirements, regulatory considerations and costs. This paper will help owners and operators of POTWs determine if thermal processes should be part of their solids solutions repertory.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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