Life Cycle Assessment was used to evaluate environmental impacts associated to a full-scale wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Barcelona Metropolitan Area, with a treatment capacity of 2 million population equivalent, focussing on energy aspects and resources consumption. The wastewater line includes conventional pre-treatment, primary settler, activated sludge with nitrogen removal, and tertiary treatment; and the sludge line consists of thickening, anaerobic digestion, cogeneration, dewatering and thermal drying. Real site data were preferably included in the inventory. Environmental impacts of the resulting impact categories were determined by the CLM 2 baseline method. According to the results, the combustion of natural gas in the cogeneration engine is responsible for the main impact on Climate Change and Depletion of Abiotic Resources, while the combustion of biogas in the cogeneration unit accounts for a minor part. The results suggest that the environmental performance of the WWTP would be enhanced by increasing biogas production through improved anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge.
Keywords: biogas, cogeneration, energy, life cycle assessment, sludge, wastewater