Waste to Energy: Solid Fuel Production from Biogas Plant Digestate and Sewage Sludge by Torrefaction-Process Kinetics, Fuel Properties, and Energy Balance
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Sustainable solutions are needed to manage increased energy demand and waste generation. Renewable energy production from abundant sewage sludge (SS) and digestate (D) from biogas is feasible. Concerns about feedstock contamination (heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria) in SS and D limits the use (e.g., agricultural) of these carbon-rich resources. Low temperature thermal conversion that results in carbonized solid fuel (CSF) has been proposed as sustainable waste utilization. The aim of the research was to investigate the feasibility of CSF production from SS and D via torrefaction. The CSF was produced at 200~300 °C (interval of 20 °C) for 20~60 min (interval 20 min). The torrefaction kinetics and CSF fuel properties were determined. Next, the differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) of SS and D torrefaction were used to build models of energy demand for torrefaction. Finally, the evaluation of the energy balance of CSF production from SS and D was completed. The results showed that torrefaction improved the D-derived CSF’s higher heating value (HHV) up to 11% (p < 0.05), whereas no significant HHV changes for SS were observed. The torrefied D had the highest HHV of 20 MJ∙kg-1 under 300 °C and 30 min, (the curve fitted value from the measured time periods) compared to HHV = 18 MJ∙kg−1 for unprocessed D. The torrefied SS had the highest HHV = 14.8 MJ∙kg−1 under 200 °C and 20 min, compared to HHV 14.6 MJ∙kg−1 for raw SS. An unwanted result of the torrefaction was an increase in ash content in CSF, up to 40% and 22% for SS and D, respectively. The developed model showed that the torrefaction of dry SS and D could be energetically self-sufficient. Generating CSF with the highest HHV requires raw feedstock containing ~15.4 and 45.9 MJ∙kg−1 for SS and D, respectively (assuming that part of feedstock is a source of energy for the process). The results suggest that there is a potential to convert biogas D to CSF to provide renewable fuel for, e.g., plants currently fed/co-fed with municipal solid waste.
This article is published as Świechowski, Kacper, Martyna Hnat, Paweł Stępień, Sylwia Stegenta-Dąbrowska, Szymon Kugler, Jacek A. Koziel, and Andrzej Białowiec. "Waste to Energy: Solid Fuel Production from Biogas Plant Digestate and Sewage Sludge by TorrefactionProcess Kinetics, Fuel Properties, and Energy Balance." 13, no. 12 Energies (2020): 3161. DOI: 10.3390/en13123161. Posted with permission.