Methodology for the assessment of the greenhouse gas impact of wastewater sludge treatment

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Nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emissions from the wastewater sector represent the second largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the waste sector. A protocol has been developed to measure GHG from sewage sludge treatment. GHG measurements were performed on two industrial sewage sludge composting plants. Measurement campaigns showed GHG emissions range between 0.18 to 3.40 kgCH4/t dry sludge and 0.74 to 0.48 kg N2O/t dry sludge. Converted to CO2 equivalent to assess climate change impact, emission factors of CH4 range between 4.5 and 85 kg eq.CO2/t dry sludge and N2O range between 143 and 221 kg eq.CO2/t dry sludge when calculated with global warming potentials (GWP) of 25 and 298, respectively. In terms of climate change impact, N2O emissions contribute much more than CH4 because of its higher GWP. N2O is linked to the treatment of nitrogen and produced during the nitrification and denitrification biological processes. Process emissions measured on the two sites were compared with indirect emissions linked to operational energy use.

Keywords: composting, greenhouse gas, methane, nitrous oxide, sewage sludge

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