Can a wastewater treatment plant be a powerplant? A case study

N Schwarzenbeck, W Pfeiffer, E Bomball
Water Science and Technology: a Journal of the International Association on Water Pollution Research 2008, 57 (10): 1555-61
Today wastewater treatment plants are evaluated not only in terms of their treatment efficiency but also concerning their energy efficiency. Increasing energy efficiency can be realized either through operational optimisation or by realising an already existing potential for energy generation on-site. The main source of energy at a municipal wastewater treatment plant is the biogas produced in the anaerobic sludge digester. Studies indicate excess digester capacities of about 20% in Germany available for co-fermentation of organic substrates other than sewage sludge. This paper presents an example of a municipal wastewater treatment plant going towards an energy self-sufficient operation and even a surplus energy production as the result of an increasing co-fermentation of sludge from grease skimming tanks. In 2005 on average 113% of the electricity consumed for plant operation was generated on-site in gas engines. Co-fermentation of about 30% (related to the total dry residue input) of grease interceptor sludge in the presented case does not only effect a 4-times increased gas yield, but also an intensified 20% higher anaerobic degradation of the organic matter of the sewage sludge and thus having a positive influence not only on the energy and financial balance but also on the anaerobic sludge stabilisation with respect to the degradation degree of the organic fraction.

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