Title page for ETD etd-02282006-003713

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kumar, Nitin
Author's Email Address nitinkr@vt.edu
URN etd-02282006-003713
Title Sequential Anaerobic-Aerobic Digestion: A new process technology for biosolids product quality improvement
Degree Master of Science
Department Environmental Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Novak, John T. Committee Chair
Boardman, Gregory D. Committee Member
Love, Nancy C. Committee Member
  • Dewatering
  • Odor control
  • biosolids
  • Sequential anaerobic aerobic digestion
  • and nitrogen removal.
Date of Defense 2006-01-30
Availability unrestricted

Anaerobic digestion is widely used for stabilization of solids in sewage sludges. Recent changes in the priorities and goals of digestion processes are focusing more attention on the efficiency of these processes. Increasing hauling cost and restrictions for land applications are two factors which are driving the increased attention to digestion efficiency. Noxious odor production from the land applied biosolids is another important issue related to digestion efficiency. Existing anaerobic digestion or aerobic digestion processes failed to provide simultaneous solution to biosolids related problems i.e. simultaneous VS reduction, better dewatering of biosolids and lesser odors from the biosolids.

Studies done by Novak et al. (2004) using different activated sludges show that anaerobic-aerobic digestion and aerobic-anaerobic digestion both increase volatile solids reduction compared to a single digestion environment. They proposed that there are 4 VS fractions in sludges: (1) a fraction degradable only under aerobic conditions, (2) a fraction degradable only under anaerobic conditions, (3) a fraction degradable under both anaerobic and aerobic conditions, and (4) a non degradable fraction. It has also been found (Akunna et al., 1993) that anaerobic-aerobic sequential treatment of wastewater can help in achieving substantial nitrogen removal. These results suggest that sequential anaerobic-aerobic digestion can address multiple biosolid related problems.

This study was designed to understand the effect of sequential anaerobic-aerobic digestion on the properties of resulting effluent biosolids. The study was carried out in two operation phases and during both phases one digester was maintained at thermophilic conditions and the other at mesophilic temperature conditions. In first operation phase (Phase-I) thermophilic digester was operating at 20 day SRT and mesophilic anaerobic digester was at 10 day SRT. The aerobic digesters following anaerobic digesters were operating at 6 day II SRT. In second operation phase (Phase-II), both thermophilic and mesophilic anaerobic digesters were operating at 15 day SRT and both had two aerobic digesters operating in parallel at 3 day and 6 day SRTs.

In addition, batch experiments were also conducted to measure the performance of aerobic-anaerobic digestion sequence. Another study was carried out to understand the nitrogen removal mechanism during aerobic digestion of anaerobic digested sludge. The feed sludge was spiked with four different concentrations of nitrate and nitrite.

It was observed during the study that aerobic digestion of anaerobic sludge helps in achieving higher Volatile solid reduction (~65% vs ~ 46% for mesophilic digestion and ~52% for thermophilic digestion). This result supports the hypothesis concerning the different fractions in volatile solids. Experimental results also show that the increase in VSR upon increasing anaerobic digestion SRT (more than 15 days) is less than the increase in the VSR due to the same increment of aerobic digestion SRT. Reduction in COD and VFA were also measured to be more than 50% during aerobic digestion.

Investigation of nitrogen fate during the sequential anaerobic-aerobic digestion show more than 50% total nitrogen removal. Higher nitrogen removal was in thermophilic anaerobic – aerobic digester combination than that in mesophilic anaerobic–aerobic combination. The most probable reason for the removal was simultaneous nitrification and denitrification. Higher concentration of readily available VFA from thermophilic anaerobic digested sludge provide advantage in denitrification in following aerobic digester.

The resulting biosolids produced during sequential digestion process were also analyzed for dewatering properties and odor production. Proteins and polysaccharides concentrations were observed to decrease during aerobic digestion for thermophilic anaerobic - aerobic digestion combination, while in another combinations polysaccharide concentrations increases at aerobic phase with 3 day digestion. The concentration of polysaccharides decreases at higher digestion period of 6 and 9. The result of decrease in polysaccharide and protein was III reflected by the reduction in the polymer dose consumption and decrease in the optimum CST for the biosolids resulting from the sequential anaerobic aerobic digestion.

Experimental results from odor experiments show that odor production potential of the biosolids decreases with increase in both anaerobic phase SRT and aerobic phase SRT. Thermophilic biosolids produces comparatively low odors but for longer periods, while mesophilic biosolids produces higher magnitude of odors during storage but only for comparative shorter period. Aerobic digestion of anaerobic sludge helps in reducing more than 50% odor production, but freeze-thaw cycle experiment shows that in both anaerobic and sequential anaerobic – aerobic digested sludges have higher potential for odor production. Higher aerobic digestion SRTs (6 days and above) shows more potential of reducing odors, but more experimental work is required to be done.

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