Post-anaerobic digestion thermal hydrolysis of sewage sludge and food waste: Effect on methane yields, dewaterability and solids reduction

Svensson, K, Kjørlaug, O, Higgins, M, Linjordet, R, Horn, S

Water Research, 2018


Post-anaerobic digestion (PAD) treatment technologies have been suggested for anaerobic digestion (AD) to improve process efficiency and assure hygenization of organic waste. Because AD reduces the amount of organic waste, PAD can be applied to a much smaller volume of waste compared to pre-digestion treatment, thereby improving efficiency. In this study, dewatered digestate cakes from two different AD plants were thermally hydrolyzed and dewatered, and the liquid fraction was recirculated to a semi-continuous AD reactor.

The thermal hydrolysis was more efficient in relation to methane yields and extent of dewaterability for the cake from a plant treating waste activated sludge, than the cake from a plant treating source separated food waste (SSFW). Temperatures above 165 °C yielded the best results. Post-treatment improved volumetric methane yields by 7% and the COD-reduction increased from 68% to 74% in a mesophilic (37°C) semi-continuous system despite lowering the solid retention time (from 17 to 14 days) compared to a conventional system with pre-treatment of feed substrates at 70°C.

Results from thermogravimetric analysis showed an expected increase in maximum TS content of dewatered digestate cake from 34% up to 46% for the SSFW digestate cake, and from 17% up to 43% in the sludge digestate cake, after the PAD thermal hydrolysis process (PAD-THP). The increased dewatering alone accounts for a reduction in wet mass of cake leaving the plant of 60% in the case of sludge digestate cake. Additionaly, the increased VS-reduction will contribute to further reduce the mass of wet cake.

Read the full article in Water Research.