Aeration is a crucial part of the biological wastewater treatment in activated sludge systems and the main energy user of WWTPs. Approximately 50 to 60% of the total energy consumption of a WWTP can be attributed to the aeration system. The performance of the aeration system, and in the case of fine bubble diffused aeration the diffuser performance, has a significant impact on the overall plant efficiency. This paper seeks to isolate the changes of the diffuser performance over time by eliminating all other influencing parameters like sludge retention time, surfactants and reactor layout. To achieve this, different diffusers have been installed and tested in parallel treatment trains in two WWTPs. The diffusers have been performance tested in clean water tests under new conditions and after one year of operation. A set of material property tests describing the diffuser membrane quality was also performed. The results showed a significant drop in the performance of the EPDM diffuser in the first year which resulted in similar oxygen transfer efficiency around 16 g/m3/m for all tested systems. Even though the tested silicone diffusers did not show a drop in performance they had a low efficiency in the initial tests. The material properties indicate that the EPDM performance loss is partly due to the washout of additives.
Keywords: aeration systems, diffuser ageing, membrane diffuser, oxygen transfer