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Energy Recovery from Thermal Treatment: To Digest or Not to Digest – Is This Sustainable?

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Many wastewater utilities are developing or have recently developed biosolids management plans (BMP) that provide a strategy for 20 to 25 years into the future. In developing BMPs, wastewater utilities are faced with many challenges, such as satisfying the customer base, satisfying internal and external stakeholders and developing a BMP that is affordable, sustainable for the future and meets regulations. Traditionally, small, medium and some largesized wastewater utilities have land applied anaerobically digested Class B biosolids either as liquid or dewatered cake, while several of the larger wastewater utilities have thermally oxidized their biosolids. With growing public pressure to reduce or cease land application, there has been renewed interest in thermal oxidation as a management strategy, often raising the question: is it sustainable? If the wastewater utility has existing digestion, is thermal oxidation compatible with digestion or should digestion be stopped?

This paper presents a comparison of six different thermal oxidation process schemes with respect to their economic, energy and carbon footprints for undigested and digested solids. The results of the comparison provide wastewater utility staff and engineers with the positive answer to the question “Is thermal oxidation of biosolids with energy recovery sustainable?”

Keywords: Cogeneration; Energy Recovery Anaerobic Digestion; GHG Emissions and Off-sets; Thermal Oxidation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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