Wastewater treatment process impact on energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions

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The objective of this research was to assess the energy consumption of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), to apply a mathematical model to evaluate their carbon footprint, and to propose energy saving strategies that can be implemented to reduce both energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Greece. The survey was focused on 10 WWTPs in Greece with a treatment capacity ranging from 10,000 to 4,000,000 population equivalents (PE). Based on the results, annual specific energy consumption ranged from 15 to 86 kWh/PE. The highest energy consumer in all the WWTPs was aeration, accounting for 40–75% of total energy requirements. The annual GHG emissions varied significantly according to the treatment schemes employed and ranged between 61 and 161 kgCO2e/PE. The highest values of CO2 emissions were obtained in extended aeration systems and the lowest in conventional activated sludge systems. Key strategies that the wastewater industry could adopt to mitigate GHG emissions are identified and discussed. A case study is presented to demonstrate potential strategies for energy savings and GHG emission reduction. Given the results, it is postulated that the reduction of dissolved oxygen (DO) set points and sludge retention time can provide significant energy savings and decrease GHG emissions.

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