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Economic viability of co-combusting sewage sludge with agricultural biomasses: a resource-efficient strategy for sludge treatment and phosphorus recovery in Sweden
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics, Energy Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6141-7796
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics, Energy Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4597-4082
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Energy Systems Energy Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-105081OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-105081DiVA, id: diva2:1851463
Available from: 2024-04-15 Created: 2024-04-15 Last updated: 2024-04-15
In thesis
1. Sewage Sludge Treatment Scenarios: Techno-Economic Analyses of Energy and Phosphorus Recovery Focusing on Implementation Challenges
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sewage Sludge Treatment Scenarios: Techno-Economic Analyses of Energy and Phosphorus Recovery Focusing on Implementation Challenges
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Managing sewage sludge, an inevitable by-product of wastewater treatment processes rich in both contaminants and valuable resources, presents a dual challenge: ensuring pollution prevention by immobilizing or destroying contaminants, and facilitating resource recovery. Balancing these objectives is critical given the growing volumes of sewage sludge and the imperative to both protect the environment and recover valuable resources. The unknown risks of land application of sludge, the currently most common disposal method, make thermal conversion a promising alternative, as it enables energy recovery, the breakdown of potentially harmful organic compounds, and the formation of volume-reduced, sanitized products. Despite the technical feasibility, the commercial development of advanced recovery technologies has been slow. 

This thesis aims to expand knowledge on different sewage sludge treatment and disposal scenarios under varying conditions; thereby shedding light on implementation challenges, local opportunities, and the financial dynamics critical for phosphorus and energy recovery from the perspectives of wastewater treatment plants, investors, and policymakers. The aim is primarily addressed by performing techno-economic analysis of sewage sludge treatment scenarios, covering the entire sludge treatment process from sludge treatment to end products and disposal (Paper II-V). The techno-economic analysis is supplemented by a review of academic research on sewage sludge management from 1971 to 2019 (Paper I). 

Results from the analysis of sewage sludge management research (Paper I) show a narrow-focused perspective that often misses the broader, interconnected aspects of sewage sludge management, leading to research that, while detailed, fails to capture the complexity of the field. The investment viability of a new mono-/co-combustion plant for sewage sludge (Paper II) is highly conditional on heat, electricity, and fertilizer prices, and external financial support is often a crucial requirement. Cocombustion of sludge (in low ratios) with K-rich agricultural biomass requirement in and energy demand of a thermal dryer, and by yielding ash that contains phosphorus in a plant-available form. Utilizing existing heat facility (Paper III) and co-combustion to mitigate investment costs and energy demand in sludge management showed the potential to offer a cost-effective alternative to land application. However, the viability of co-combustion hinges on both a high heat market price (Paper II) and the proximity of affordable biomass resources (Paper III). Without these conditions, co-combustion may increase the financial burden of sludge management on wastewater treatment plants and policymakers. 

Retrofitting a wastewater treatment plant by integrating hydrothermal carbonization in sludge treatment (Paper IV), demonstrated good economic feasibility, primarily due to the avoided disposal costs, while also recovering phosphorus. However, integrating hydrothermal carbonization in a system designed for a thermal dryer may cause a significant reduction in electricity production.

Given the high moisture content of sludge and the low market prices for fertilizer, the potential revenue from energy and phosphorus recovery is inadequate to solely drive investment in advanced sewage sludge treatment technologies (Papers II-V). This issue is exacerbated by the fact that most wastewater treatment plants are small in scale. Collaborative sludge management across neighboring wastewater treatment plants (Paper V) increases phosphorus recovery capacity and leverages economies of scale, fostering investment in advanced technology. This strategy presents a significant opportunity to lower the treatment costs and offers a competitive alternative to land application, while encompassing energy and phosphorus recovery into the sludge treatment.

In conclusion, resource recovery and pollution prevention in sludge management is a complex task that necessitates simultaneous consideration of technical aspects, product quality, site-specific conditions, and profitability to ensure a comprehensive and viable approach. Leveraging local infrastructure and resources in sewage sludge management is crucial, highlighting the ecessity for strategies to be tailored to the local opportunities and limitations. Such an approach outperforms mono-combustion by eliminating the investment ensures that solutions are not only environmentally sustainable but also economically viable and socially acceptable. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå University of Technology, 2024
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords
Sewage sludge management, techno-economic analysis, phosphorus recovery, energy recovery, thermochemical treatment
National Category
Energy Engineering Energy Systems
Research subject
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-105083 (URN)978-91-8048-534-0 (ISBN)978-91-8048-535-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-06-14, A117, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-04-15 Created: 2024-04-15 Last updated: 2024-05-24Bibliographically approved

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