Municipal sludge minimization: evaluation of ultrasonic and acidic pretreatment methods and their subsequent effects on anaerobic digestion

Apul, Onur Güven
Sludge management is one of the most difficult and expensive problems in wastewater treatment plant operation. Consequently, ‘sludge minimization’ concept arose to solve the excess sludge production by sludge pretreatment. Sludge pretreatment converts the waste sludge into a more bioavailable substrate for anaerobic digestion and leads to an enhanced degradation. The enhanced degradation results in more organic reduction and more biogas production. Therefore, sludge pretreatment is a means of improving sludge management in a treatment plant. Among pretreatment methods, acidic pretreatment has been subject of limited successful studies reported in the literature. On the contrary; ultrasonic pretreatment was reported as an effective pretreatment method. Main objective of this study was to investigate the effects of these two pretreatment methods and their combination in order to achieve a synergistic effect and improve the success of both pretreatment methods. Experimental investigation of pretreatment methods consists of preliminary studies for deciding the most appropriate pretreatment method. Anaerobic batch tests were conducted for optimization of the parameters of selected method. Finally, operation of semi-continuous anaerobic reactors was to investigate the effect of pretreatment on anaerobic digestion in details. Preliminary studies indicated that, more effective pretreatment method in terms of solubilization of organics is ultrasonic pretreatment. Fifteen minutes of sonication enhanced 50 mg/L initial soluble COD concentration up to a value of 2500 mg/L. Biochemical methane potential tests indicated that the increased soluble substrate improved anaerobic biodegradability concurrently. Finally, semi-continuous anaerobic reactors were used to investigate the efficiency of pretreatment under different operating conditions. Results indicate that at SRT 15 days and OLR 0.5 kg/m3d ultrasonic pretreatment improved the daily biogas production of anaerobic digester by 49% and methane percentage by 16% and 24% more volatile solids were removed after pretreatment. Moreover, even after pushing reactors into worse operating conditions such as shorter solids retention time (7.5 days) and low strength influent, pretreatment worked efficiently and improved the anaerobic digestion. Finally cost calculations were performed. Considering the gatherings from enhancement of biogas amount, higher methane percentage and smaller amounts of volatile solid disposal from a treatment plant; installation and operation costs of ultrasound were calculated. The payback period of the installation was found to be 4.7 years.


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Citation Formats
O. G. Apul, “Municipal sludge minimization: evaluation of ultrasonic and acidic pretreatment methods and their subsequent effects on anaerobic digestion,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2009.