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Anaerobic Digestion of Sludge

A close up of dried wastewater anaerobic digestion sludgeThe anaerobic digestion of sludge using the Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) Process has been used for water treatment for many years. In water treatment many plants have been built and operated purely for water treatment purposes. Nowadays, the technology is being increasingly used for the benefits of the methane it produces.
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Strictly liquid phase Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) Process installations which treat largely soluble COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) must inevitably comprise some of the most proven Anaerobic Digestion systems available today. This is simply because they have been used for a long while, before the methane generation benefits of the process became important as an energy source, and the negative effects of methane escaping as a greenhouse gas were appreciated.

The Anaerobic Digestion of Sludge Using UASB Reactors in the Water Industry

Wastewater Engineering by Metcalf and Eddy (sometimes known as, “the water treatment engineer’s bible”) lists three main water treatment based variants:-

Original UASB process with Modifications: in which as the name suggests the raw untreated influent is introduced into the bottom of a vessel and distributed such that a close-to-laminar upward flow is created. In the upper portion of the UASB Reactor a cone shape is introduced with a geometry which creates a widening cross section as presented to the rising flow. In response to this cross sectional change the flow reduces as it rises and this presents a stable point at which a gradually descending unattached anaerobic biological sludge will sit in a reasonably stable position with the untreated flow rising upward holding the descending sludge in equilibrium. Methane gas bubbles are collected in a gas collector located above the blanket. The design usually provides a well clarified effluent which arrives at the surface and is allowed to pass from the surface over a weir and may also be clarified further, in a separate clarifier. Some variants have historically been provided with an internal packing to improve sludge blanket stability – in which case these are described as attached growth UASB processes.

The Anaerobic Baffled Reactor (ABR): Not described in detail but uses the same principle and the bio-mass is not fixed but held in suspension in each of four tank reactor vessels through which the effluent passes in series with a progressively cleaner supernatant flowing upward and over a weir in each.

The Anaerobic Migrating Blanket Reactor (AMBR): Developed at Stanford University in the 1980s. Sounds complicated but is similar to the ABR but with mixing only within the depth of the sludge blanket and in a manner which maintains a discrete sludge blanket and a supernatant which clarifies as it flows upward after leaving the sludge blanket, in each tank.

Metcalf & Eddy state that:-

Design Considerations for UASB Process

A comprehensive review of design considerations for UASB reactors has been provided by Lettinga and Hulshoff Pol (1991). Important design considerations are (1) waste-water characteristics in terms of composition and solids ‘content, (2) volumetric organic load, (3) upflow velocity, (4) reactor volume, (5) physical features including the influent distribution system, and (6) gas collection system.

Wastewater Characteristics. Wastewaters that contain substances that can adversely affect the sludge granulation, cause foaming, or cause scum formation are of concern. Wastewaters with higher concentrations of proteins and/or fats tend to create more of the above problems. The fraction of particulate versus soluble COD is important in determining the design loadings for UASB reactors as well as determining the applicability of the process. As the fraction of solids in the wastewater increases, the ability to form a dense granulated sludge decreases. At a certain solids concentration (greater than 6 g TSS/L) anaerobic digestion and anaerobic contact processes may be more appropriate.

Volumetric Organic Loadings. Typical COD loadings as a function of the wastewater strength, fraction of particulate COD in the wastewater, and TSS concentrations in the effluent are summarized in Table 10—11 (see Metcalf & Eddy, Wastewater Engineering). Removal efficiencies of 90 to 95 percent for COD have been achieved at COD loadings ranging from 12 to 20 kg COD/m3-d on a variety of wastes at 30 to 35°C with UASB reactors.

USAB Reactors in the Waste Management Industry

The ArrowBio Process is possibly the best known application of UASB technology to the anaerobic Digestion of solid waste materials.

Click here for more about how ArrowBio uses UASB.

Anaerobic Digestion of Biomass

One Response to Anaerobic Digestion of Sludge

  1. Judith Jones January 12, 2015 at 12:19 am #

    “Wow, sludge! Never knew 1/10th of what is in this article. Really Cool.”

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