Role of primary sedimentation on plant-wide energy recovery and carbon footprint

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The goal of this paper is to show the effect of primary sedimentation on the chemical oxygen demand (COD) and solids fractionation and consequently on the carbonaceous and energy footprints of wastewater treatment processes. Using a simple rational procedure for COD and solids fraction quantification, we quantify the effects of varying fractions on CO2 and CO2-equivalent mass flows, process energy demand and energy recovery. Then we analysed two treatment plants with similar biological nutrient removal processes in two different climatic regions and quantified the net benefit of gravity separation before biological treatment. In the cases analysed, primary settling increases the solid fraction of COD that is processed in anaerobic digestion, with an associated increase in biogas production and energy recovery, and a reduction in overall emissions of CO2 and CO2-equivalent from power importation.

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