Optimizing water and resource recovery facilities (WRRF) for energy generation without compromising effluent quality

  • George A Ekama Department of Civil Engineering, Future Water Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701, Western Cape, South Africa
Keywords: primary settling tanks, biological nutrient removal, anaerobic digestion, energy generation, energy consumption


The primary separation unit (PSU) splits the organic load on the water and resource recovery facility (WRRF) between the primary sludge (PS) anaerobic digester (AD), where energy can be generated, and the biological nutrient removal (BNR) activated sludge (AS) reactor, where energy is consumed. With a CHONP element mass-balanced plant-wide stoichiometric and kinetic steady-state model, this paper explores quantitatively the impact of four cases of increasing organics removal efficiencies in the PSU on (i) settled wastewater characteristics, (ii) balanced solids retention time (SRT) of the Modified Ludzack-Ettinger (MLE) and University of Cape Town/Johannesburg (UCT/JHB) systems for lowest economical effluent N and P concentrations, (iii) reactor volume, (iv) energy consumption for aeration, pumping and mixing, (v) energy generation by AD of PS and waste activated sludge (WAS), (vi) N&P content of the PS and WAS AD dewatering liquor (DWL) and (vii) final effluent N and P concentrations with and without enhanced biological P removal (EBPR), and looks for an optimum WRRF layout for maximum energy recovery without compromising effluent quality. For the low biogas yield from the WAS AD, decreasing as the SRT of the BNRAS system gets longer and with the added complexity of N&P removal from the digested sludge DWL, makes AD of WAS undesirable unless P recovery is required. Because the wastewater biodegradable particulate organics (BPO) have a low N&P content, it is better to divert more biodegradable particulate organics to the PSAD with enhanced primary separation than digest WAS – the PSAD DWL can be returned to the influent with relatively small impact on final effluent N and P concentration.


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