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Steam-Explosion Pretreatment for Enhancing Anaerobic Digestion of Municipal Wastewater Sludge

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This study evaluated the use of steam explosion as a pretreatment for municipal wastewater treatment sludges and biosolids as a technique for enhancing biogas generation during anaerobic digestion. Samples of dewatered anaerobic digester effluent (biosolids) and a mixture of thickened waste activated sludge (TWAS) and biosolids were steam-exploded under differing levels of intensity in this study. The results indicate that steam explosion can solublize components of these sludge streams. Increasing the intensity of the steam-explosion pressure and temperature resulted in increased solublization. The steam-explosion pretreatment also increased the bioavailability of sludge components under anaerobic digestion conditions. Increasing the steam-explosion intensity increased the ultimate yield of methane during anaerobic digestion. Batch anaerobic digestion tests suggested that pretreatment at 300 psi was the most optimal condition for enhanced biogas generation while minimizing energy input. Semicontinuous anaerobic digestion revealed that the results that were observed in the batch tests were sustainable in prolonged operation. Semicontinuous digestion of the TWAS/biosolids mixture that was pretreated at 300 psi generated approximately 50% more biogas than the controls. Semicontinuous digestion of the pretreated biosolids resulted in a 3-fold increase in biogas compared with the controls. Based on capillary suction test results, steam-explosion pretreatment at 300 psi improved the dewaterability of the final digested sludge by 32 and 45% for the TWAS/biosolids mixture and biosolids, respectively, compared with controls. The energy requirements of the nonoptimized steam-explosion process were substantially higher than the additional energy produced from enhanced digestion of the pretreated sludge. Substantial improvements in energy efficiency will be required to make the process viable from an energy perspective.
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Keywords: anaerobic sludge digestion; biogas; biosolids; pretreatment; steam explosion; thickened waste activated sludge

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-05-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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