An Evaluation of Alternatives for Enhancing Anaerobic Digestion of Waste Activated Sludge
Pickel, Jessica Lee
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Waste activated sludge (WAS) is one of the largest by-products of biological wastewater treatment. Anaerobic digestion of WAS is beneficial for several reasons. In an ever increasingly energy conscientious world the production of renewable energy resources is becoming more important, and thus the production of methane has been seen as a valuable product. To achieve efficient conversion of organic matter to methane, the biomass in the digester must be provided optimal operating conditions, as well as adequate retention times, that will allow for substrate metabolism and prevent bacteria washout. Two approaches have been taken in this research to achieve improved biodegradation. Initially microwave pretreatment was employed to improve the biodegradability of the sludge, then the addition of a submerged hollow fibre membrane separation unit was used to allow for a longer SRT while maintaining the hydraulic residence time (HRT). The impact of microwave pretreatment on WAS characteristics was assessed for both the low temperature operations and the high temperature operations. An increase due to pretreatment on the filtered to total COD ratio when comparing the feed to the microwaved feed was established to be 200 % for low temperature operations and 254 % for high temperature operations. For the low temperature operations, CODT destruction, VS destruction, and organic nitrogen destruction were all higher for the test digester than the control digester indicating that the microwaving of the WAS increased the biodegradation in the anaerobic digester. For the high temperature operation, CODT destruction and organic nitrogen destruction were improved with microwave application, however VS destruction did not support this. The measured biogas data indicated that microwaving did influence the volume of biogas produced during anaerobic digestion of WAS for both the low and high temperature operations, and hence the VS destruction data for the high temperature operations was determined to be incorrect. For the membrane operations both the CODT and the VS destruction calculations indicated that at the same SRT the test digester was capable of more biodegradation than the control digester. The control digester organic nitrogen reduction was calculated to be higher than for the test digester, suggesting that the control digester removed more organic nitrogen than the test digester, however, these results were likely due to the lower HRT of the test digester compared to those of the control digester. A greater volume of biogas was produced by the test digester than the control digester; however, the composition of the gas from both digesters was similar, although the percentage of methane produced by the test digester was higher than that produced by the control digester. The higher destruction by the test digester indicated that the presence of the membrane unit and the decoupling of the HRT and SRT improved the biodegradation capability of the digesters. The results of the membrane performance study indicated that for a hollow fibre anaerobic membrane bioreactor, stable operations could be achieved with a total solids concentration of 2.01 %+/-0.34, an HRT of 15 days and an SRT of 30 days. With a constant flux of 14 L/m2-h +/-0.68 the average TMP was 0.079 kPa/min+/-0.08. No cleaning was required to achieve this, however the operations consisted of 20 minutes of permeation followed by 5 hours and 40 minutes of relaxation. The critical flux was determined to be in the range of 18 to 22 L/m2-h.