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Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

Working with energy and mass balances: a conceptual framework to understand the limits of municipal wastewater treatment

J. M. Garrido, M. Fdz-Polanco and F. Fdz-Polanco


At present all municipal waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) are energy consumers. Electrical

energy requirements for oxygen transfer are large in secondary biological systems. Nevertheless,

from a thermodynamic point of view chemical oxygen demand (COD) is an energy source.

Combustion of every kilogram of COD releases 3.86 kWh of energy. In this manuscript some

measures are presented, from a conceptual point of view, in order to convert the actual concept of

wastewater treatment as an energy sinkto an energy sourceconcept. In this sense, electrical self-

sufciency in carbon removal WWTPs could be obtained by increasing the sludge load to the

anaerobic sludge digester. Nitrogen removal increases the energy requirements of WWTPs. The use

of a combined two-stage biological treatment, using a high loaded rst stage for carbon removal and

a second stage combined nitri cationanammox process for nitrogen removal in the water line,

offers a way to recover self-sufciency. This is not a proven technology at ambient temperature, but

its development offers an opportunity to reduce the energy demand of WWTPs. Key words | COD balance, energy balance, nitrogen balance, wastewater treatment sustainability

J. M. Garrido (corresponding author)

Chemical Engineering Department, School of Engineering, University of Santiago de Compostela, Campus Sur,


Santiago de Compostela, Spain E-mail:

M. Fdz-Polanco

F. Fdz-Polanco

Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology, University of Valladolid,

47011 Valladolid,



Wastewater is a mixture rich in water (> 99%), with a small amount of pollutants ( <1%) that in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are transformed into by-products (carbon dioxide and sludge). Regardless of the technology used and the size of the facilities, at present almost all municipal WWTPs using aerobic biological processes for removing organic matter are net electrical energy consumers. Aerobic processes used are net energy consumers due to the fact that the oxidation of organic matter requires oxygen transfer, and aeration systems demand high amounts of electrical energy. Additionally, nitrogen treatment processes consume more electrical energy than processes simply removing chemical oxygen demand (COD) due to the additional oxygen and pumping requirements for the nitri cation denitri cation process ( Jonasson ). Accepting as speci c energy parameter the source elec- trical energy use intensity (EUI), de ned as annual energy used on the facility divided by the average in uent ow (kWh/m 3 ), the literature overview shows big differences among different facilities. EUI average values of 0.78 kWh/m 3 treated wastewater were reported in the

doi: 10.2166/wst.2013.124

USA (US EPA & US ED ). Lidkea ( ) analyzed three Canadian WWTPs with average ow rate of 56,000 m 3 /d, and found an average EUI value of 0.35 kWh/m 3 . EUI in WWTPs of Flanders is on average 0.30 kWh/m 3 (Fenu et al. ). Jonasson ( ), comparing several European facilities, obtains an EUI average value of 0.30 kWh/m 3 for Austria and 0.47 kWh/m 3 for Sweden. EUI due to secondary treatment accounts for 0.2 kWh/m 3 treated water in these two countries. Differences between these two countries are related to energy consumption for pumping. The use of membrane technologies increases energy consumption. EUI associated with the use of mem- brane bioreactors is between 0.8 and 1.2 kWh/m 3 . The use of conventional activated sludge (CAS) equipped with tertiary membrane ltration and ultraviolet disinfection increases EUI up to 0.593 kWh/m 3 (Fenu et al. ; Maere et al. ). Nevertheless, from a thermodynamic point of view, organic matter in wastewater can be considered not as an energy sinkbut an energy source . All the organic com- pounds included in the wastewater contain energy stored within their chemical bonds. However, recovery of most of


J. M. Garrido et al . | Working with energy and mass balances

Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

this energy, in terms of electricity, is a dif cult task in WWTPs. A large fraction of this energy is dissipated as residual heat when secondary aerobic biological reactors are used. At commercial level, only anaerobic digestion of either wastewater or sludge may recover a fraction of this energy in the biogas. However, only sludge methanization may be used in cold or temperate regions of the world. Digester gas-fueled electric power generators are used to recuperate energy from biogas. Cogeneration units using internal combustion engines are the most widely used energy recovery systems in WWTPs. They convert 3042% of the energy into electricity. Fuel cells also may be used for recovering energy from methane. Nevertheless, electrical ef ciency of fuel cells is not much larger, between 36 and 45%. Moreover, cogeneration using fuel cells is more expensive than internal combustion engines ( Brown & Caldwell ). Energy recovery using microbial fuel cells or microbial electrolysis cells is still a challenge, due to some concerns related to energy losses, high costs, and feasi- bility of using such technologies in full-scale facilities ( Logan et al .  ,  ; McCarty et al. ). To perform energy balances, it is necessary to calculate the energy content (EC) of the wastewater. The paper of Shizas & Bagley (  ) seems to be the rst experimental approach to determine the energy stored in domestic waste- water. Using an oven to dry the samples and a calorimeter bomb, they found that the heat of combustion (ΔU C ) is lar- gely dependent on the fraction considered: wastewater ( ΔU C ¼ 3.2 kJ/g dry); primary sludge ( ΔU C ¼ 15.9 kJ/g dry); secondary sludge ( ΔU C ¼ 12.4 kJ/g dry); anaerobi- cally digested sludge ( ΔU C ¼ 12.7 kJ/g dry). Converting these experimental values based on dry matter into values based on COD the new calculated values are very similar for all fractions: raw wastewater ( ΔU C ¼ 14.70 kJ/g COD); primary sludge ( Δ U C ¼ 11.12 kJ/g COD); second- ary sludge ( Δ U C ¼ 12.05 kJ/g COD); an aerobically digested sludge ( ΔU C ¼ 11.68 kJ/g COD). Taking COD as reference, the experimental values of the energy stored in the different streams of the WWTP did not vary so much. In a more recent paper, Heidrich et al. ( ) present experimental results for two samples of wastewater from different facilities; both samples were dried in an oven or by freezing in order to minimize loss of volatiles. For oven-dried samples the EC values were 22.5 and 17.7 kJ/ kg COD while for freeze-dried samples the values reported are 28.7 and 17.8 kJ/kg COD. Heidrich et al. ( ) obtained larger values than those of Shizas & Bagley ( ) , as the former authors corrected the combustion heat obtained taking into account a possible formation of nitric acid

from nitrogen gas during the experiments. Differences in the experimental values obtained between the experimental data of Shizas & Bagley ( ) and Heidrich et al. ( ) are suggesting that another methodology should be followed in order to set the value of the heat of combustion of organic matter. COD is a conservative parameter easy to measure and follow during wastewater treatment. COD may be converted to methane in anaerobic digesters. Considering stoichi- ometry, it is easy to set that 1 kg CH 4 is equivalent to 4 kg COD. By applying Hess s law and stoichiometry of the reac- tions, and adopting from Perry (  ) that the heat of combustion of methane is 55.53 kJ/g CH 4 , the heat of com- bustion of COD is calculated as:

ΔU C ¼ 55: 53 kJ=g CH



¼ 13: 88 kJ =g COD

Þ = 4 g COD =g CH




This theoretical value of 13.88 kJ/g COD is in good agreement with the experimental value 14.70 kJ/g COD pro- posed by Shizas & Bagley (  ) for raw wastewater. Thus, this energy potential, equivalent to 3.856 kWh per every kilogram of COD oxidized, will be considered throughout the calculations. This work will show how the concept of a WWTP as energy sink processes may be converted to energy source systemsin the near future, at least from a theoretical point of view. For doing so, mass and energy balances will be analyzed, considering a 400,000 population equivalent (p.e.) municipal WWTP. For this purpose, different scen- arios to treat wastewater and meet nutrient and COD discharge limits will be considered.


Wastewater treatment plant

Energy and mass benchmarking will be considered to ana- lyze a municipal WWTP of 400,000 p.e., treating 74,500 m 3 /d wastewater and an organic load of 50,000 kg COD/d. The population equivalent of this plant was xed at 125 g COD/(p.e.·d) and 12 g total nitrogen (TN)/(p.e.·d), which are equivalent to the 60 g biochemical oxygen demand/(p.e.·d) considered by the European urban waste- water treatment directive 91/271/EEC ( EC  ). The plant layout of the facility included in the water line at least a pri- mary treatment, secondary CAS treatment and anaerobic


J. M. Garrido et al. | Working with energy and mass balances

Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

sludge digester, as common elements for benchmarking ( Figure 1 ). Modi cation of this basic facility included two scenarios that would be used for analyzing a WWTP designed for COD removal and three additional scenarios for analyz- ing WWTPs designed for nutrients removal.

Scenarios for COD WWTPs

Scenario 1. Conventional facility for carbon removal; Appar- ent biomass yield in the CAS was xed at 0.5 g COD/g COD and ef ciency of primary sedimentation was xed at 30%.

Scenario 2. Improving primary sedimentation. Similar to scenario 1 but ef ciency of primary sedimentation was increased to 40%, by using lower overow rates and adding occulants in the primary sedimentation tanks as suggested by Siegrist et al. ( ).

Scenarios considered for nutrient removal WWTPs

Scenario 3. Conventional nutrient removal plant. A predeni- tri cation process was considered as the nutrients removal system.

Scenario 4. Similar to scenario 3, but autotrophic nitrogen removal of the centrate is considered by using a system com- bining both partial ammonia oxidation and anammox processes.

Scenario 5. Autotrophic nitrogen removal in the water line is considered as tertiary treatment. High-rate CAS operated with very low solids retention time (SRT) was considered as secondary treatment in order to increase secondary sludge production.

treatment in order to increase secondary sludge production. Figure 1 | Mass (% COD, referred to

Figure 1 |

Mass (% COD, referred to the

scenario 1, a conventional WWTP for 400,000 p.e.

in uent)

and energy

(MWh/d) balances for

COD balances

COD balances were calculated using a spreadsheet (Excel). The information required to perform COD balances in the secondary treatment, apparent biomass yield and oxygen requirements, was determined with the assistance of Biowin software.

Assumptions considered during the study

Energy requirements of the physical stages (e.g. pumping, degritting, operation of primary and secondary settlers, sludge dewatering units) and the sludge treatment are xed at 20 Wh/(p.e.·d). This value is similar to that of only 19.2 Wh/(p.e.·d) reported for Austria by Jonasson ( ). EUI for the physical stages is only 0.135 kWh/m 3 , and 8,000 kWh/d are required for treating the 74,500 m 3 /d above indicated. By doing that it is assumed that these phys- ical stages are optimized and that energy consumption due to these operations cannot be reduced to a perceptible extent. Specic energy consumption associated with oxygen transfer in the biological stages was xed at 1.0 kg O 2 /kWh, which is in between the typical oxygen transfer capabilities associated with various types of aerator (Metcalf & Eddy ). Thus, the oxidation of 1 kg COD in the CAS requires 1 kWh electrical consumption. Mass and energy balances are carried out following COD evolution along the WWTP, while energy balances are performed using the EC or combustion enthalpy ( ΔU C ), so the EC of a stream in the ow diagram can be calculated as a function of the COD mass ux ( F COD ), and assuming an EC of 3.856 kWh for each kilogram COD (Equation (1)):

ECðkWh= dÞ¼ F COD ð kg COD= dÞ × ΔU C ðkWh= kg CODÞ


Total COD of raw wastewater (50,000 kg/d) was divided into four COD fractions as suggested in Metcalf & Eddy (), and considering the typical characteristics of raw sewage (Rieger et al. ): soluble inert COD (S I ), 4% total COD; soluble biodegradable COD (S S ), 10% of total COD; particulate inert COD (X I ), 20% of total COD; and particu- late biodegradable COD (X S ), 66% of total COD. S I was neither oxidized nor separated in the sedimentation units of the WWTP. A fraction of X I is separated as primary sludge, and the remaining fraction present in the primary treated wastewater is wasted in the secondary sludge. This COD frac- tion cannot be methanized. X S may be partly oxidized in the


J. M. Garrido et al . | Working with energy and mass balances

Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

CAS or methanized in the anaerobic digester. It was assumed that secondary sludge was composed of a mixture of X S and X I . Futhermore, microorganisms generated during secondary treatment were included in the X S fraction. S S is partly oxi- dized and partly converted by microorganisms in the CAS. TN mass ux in the inuent was 4,800 kg/d. For nutrient removal scenarios 4 and 5, TN removal was xed at 80% in accordance with the 92/271/EEC European urban waste- water directive (EC ). Biomethanization of the biodegradable COD fractions of primary and secondary sludge is supposed to be similar. The differences in the methane capacity obtained for these sludges are related to the presence of a large fraction of X I in the secondary sludge. Sixty-nine percent of COD destruc- tion of X S was xed in the anaerobic digester (Kabouris et al.  ) in order to calculate COD transformation in methane. Thus EC of biogas was calculated (Equation (2)):

ECðkWh=d Þ¼ 0: 69 F COD- X S ð kg COD= dÞ

× ΔU C ðkWh =kg CODÞ


where F COD- X S (kg COD/d) represented the COD mass ux associated with biodegradable particulate COD for primary and secondary sludges. Electrical ef ciency of fueled elec- tric power generators was xed at 35% ( Brown & Caldwell  ).


Analyzing a conventional WWTP there is a rst question to elucidate: is it possible to obtain a positive energy balance? The answer is clear: if the EC of the wastewater is higher than the energy requirements of the WWTP, the plant could be an energy source. Electrical energy requirements of the conventional WWTP are xed at 63 Wh/(p.e.·d) ( Jonasson ). This amount is equivalent to 0.34 kWh/m 3 treated wastewater in the considered WWTP. In our scen- ario of 400,000 p.e. and 50,000 kg COD/d the electrical energy requirements per day amount to 25,200 kWh/d. Nevertheless, the gross energy associated with wastewater COD is much larger, 203,500 kWh/d. If the whole COD amount could be converted into methane, 71,225 kWh/d electricity would be generated. This was calculated by xing ef ciency of the electricity generator at 35%. This rst result is conclusive. The wastewater holds much more energy than that necessary to operate WWTPs. Nevertheless

from a practical point of view this limit will be lower. First, nonbiodegradable COD, accounting for 24% of total COD in this study, cannot be transformed to methane. Second, a fraction of biodegradable COD will be lost in the water line due to its oxidation in the CAS. Thus, the goal is to demonstrate the technical feasibility of the energy recupera- tion processes.

COD removal scenarios

Scenario 1

Figure 1 depicts the mass and energy balances of the con- ventional WWTP designed for carbon removal. Mass balances were performed using a basis of 100% for the 50,000 kg/d COD mass load to the WWTP and assuming that primary clarication ef ciency is 30% (COD). Energy balances were calculated by using Equation (2), thus are pro- portional to the COD mass ux. Apparent biomass yield was estimated to be 0.5 kg COD/kg COD, using the Biowin ® simulation software, corresponding to a CAS operated with a SRT of around 7 d. Assuming these parameters the electrical energy require- ments of the plant were estimated as 24.5 MWh/d; 8 MWh/d (33%) are associated with the energy require- ments of the physical stages and 16.5 (67%) are required for the oxygen transfer in CAS. The energy potential of the methane oxidation is much larger, 56.3 MWh/d. Neverthe- less, the electricity produced by the biogas internal combustion engine was 19.7 MWh/d, only covering 80.5% of the electricity requirement of the WWTP. The balances clearly demonstrate that it is not possible to reach an ener- getically self-suf cient WWTP maintaining this conventional operation strategy. EUI was 0.33 kWh/m 3 treated. Electricity consumption in this kind of scenario could be reduced considering the use of high ef cient aera- tion systems, with oxygen transfer capabilities of 1.72.2 kg O 2 /kWh ( Svardal & Kroiss ). The assumption of 1 kg O 2 /kWh considered in the present study represents the typi- cal capability of the aerators ( Metcalf & Eddy ). Biogas was the only source for energy production and aeration the main energy consumer. A rst energy bottleneck may be identied in Figure 1: the low efciency of the pri- mary system allows that 70% COD goes to the aerobic biological process, consuming oxygen to burnthe organic matter to produce carbon dioxide and residual heat. Another limitation was related to the low efciency of anaerobic diges- tion, which only transforms into biogas 29.2% of the inuent


J. M. Garrido et al. | Working with energy and mass balances

Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

COD. Thus, self-sufciency of the plant could be improved by increasing primary sludge production (scenario 2).

Scenario 2

A route to modify the mass and energy balances is to change the ef ciency of primary sedimentation from 30 to 40% ( Figure 2 ). This may be done by using lower overow rates and adding occulants to the inuent ( Siegrist et al.  ). The higher COD ef ciency of primary sedimentation increases the mass/energy load to the anaerobic digester, decreasing the amount of COD that will be oxidized and the energy requirements of the CAS. The electrical energy requirements of the plant were estimated as 22.0 MWh/d. Energy requirements of CAS diminished from 16.5 to 14 MWh/d. The electricity produced in the internal combus- tion engine was also 22.0 MWh/d, and the facility achieved self-suf ciency. Other possible strategies to improve or increase biogas production in the WWTP could be: (i) to increase COD mass ux of primary sludge by using primary ltration units; (ii) to improve COD methanization in the anaerobic digester using, for example, thermal hydrolysis

anaerobic digester using, for example, thermal hydrolysis Figure 2 | Mass (% COD, in relation to

Figure 2 | Mass (% COD, in relation to the in uent) and energy (MWh/d) balances for scenario 2; efciency of primary sedimentation was 40%.

processes; and (iii) to use the anaerobic digestion process. From these three alternatives, only the second seems to be an option as the use of primary membrane technologies is not a proven technology and the third is recommended for sub(tropical) climate conditions ( van Lier ), limiting its use in cold and temperate climate regions.

Nutrient removal scenarios

Other scenarios that should be considered include those WWTPs that should meet nutrients limits. Phosphorus removal itself, using either physical or biological processes, does not exert a strong effect on internal energy balances. However, nitrogen removal exerts a strong inuence on the energy requirements of the WWTP. Oxygen requirements associated with nitrogen removal are very large, and compar- able to those associated with organic carbon removal. For a conventional nutrient removal system, using nitricationdenitri cation processes, ammonia oxidation requires a large amount of oxygen, around 4.57 kg O 2 /kg oxidized-N. Thus, energy requirements of nitrication are around 4.57 kWh/kg oxidized-N. Moreover, 4.57 kWh elec- tricity is lost with every kilogram of nitrate discharged in the efuent. The denitri cation reaction offers not only an opportunity of removing TN or recovering alkalinity in the wastewater. It is also a way of recovering energy; 2.86 kg COD are oxidized per kg NO 3 -N denitri ed. Thus, 2.86 kWh electricity is saved per kg NO 3 -N denitri ed.

Scenario 3

To quantify the standard conditions a predenitri cation CAS system was considered, assuming an apparent biomass yield of 0.5 kg COD/kg-COD and a SRT of around 7 d. Nitrogen content, associated with the particulate COD fractions, was 0.06 kg N/kg COD. Figure 3 shows the

COD fractions, was 0.06 kg N/kg COD. Figure 3 shows the Figure 3 | COD percentage

Figure 3 | COD percentage and balance (in relation to 100% in the inuent) and total nitrogen balance (9.6 units in the inuent, associated with 100 COD units) for scenario 3 (left) and 4 (right).


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Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

evolution of TN and COD mass balances for scenario 3. Considering wastewater composition, 100 mass units of COD are associated with 9.6 mass units of TN in the inuent. Nitrogen load treated in the WWTP was 4,800 kg TN/d. TN of the primary inuent was the same as in the inuent. Nitrogen recycled in the centrate counteracted nitrogen separated in the primary sludge. From the 9.6 TN units present in the inuent, 20% of TN was washed out with the efuent (1.9 units), and 59% TN was removed by using the denitri cation reaction (5.7 TN mass units). Elec- trical requirement was 33.7 MWh/d, which is much higher than the 24.5 MWh/d estimated for scenario 1, with the COD removal WWTP. Nitrogen removal itself accounted for 9.2 MWh/d of the electrical requirements. On the other hand, energy generation was the same as for scenario 1, 19.7 MWh/d. EUI was 0.45 kWh/m 3 and electricity gen- erated only covered 58.5% of the electricity requirements. Thus, the use of the conventional nutrient removal system, using nitri cationdenitri cation processes, moves waste- water treatment away from self-sustainability. This does not mean that electrical self-suf ciency cannot be achieved in nutrient removal WWTPs, but makes it more dif cult. In this sense, Nowak et al. ( ) presented two examples of Austrian WWTPs designed for nitrogen removal, in which self-sustainability was achieved: the Wolfgangsee- Ischl and the Strass WWTPs. For the rst WWTP, the ef - ciency of both primary sedimentation and COD transformation in methane in the anaerobic digester was high, 37 and 61.8% respectively, and makes possible self-suf ciency. The self-suf ciency for the Strass WWTP was favored, among other factors, by the low N to COD ratio of the in uent, of only 0.07 g N/g COD, and the high electrical ef ciency of the electric power generator used, 40% which was 5% higher than that considered for the pre- sent work. Another possible alternative for reducing the energy requirements of the WWTPs might be the use of auto- trophic nitrogen removal processes using both partial ammonia oxidation to nitrite and the anammox reaction ( Siegrist et al .  ). Nevertheless the oxygen requirement of this autotrophic process is still large, around 2.22 kg O 2 /kg N removed.

Scenario 4

The WWTP is similar to that of scenario 3 ( Figure 3 ), but now an autotrophic removal process, e.g. Canon process ( Third et al.  ), is considered for treating TN of the cen- trate. Eleven percent of TN treated with this process will be

oxidized to nitrate (0.2 TN units). The secondary CAS is a conventional denitri cation process, which should treat a lower TN amount that that estimated for scenario 3 (8.0 versus 9.6 TN units, respectively). Energy requirements and generation of scenario 4 (33.6 and 19.7 MWh/d, respectively) are almost the same as those obtained for scenario 3. Denitri ed nitrogen considered for both scen- arios was the same (5.7 units). Whatever the scenario, ammonia is oxidized to nitrogen gas as the nal product using either conventional nitrogen removal or anammox reaction. Nitrogen nitrate considered in the ef uent of scenario 4 was the same as that in scenario 3. Thus, elec- tron acceptor and energy requirements associated with oxygen transfer are almost the same in both scenarios. Nevertheless, the use of the anammox process reduces denitri cation requirements in the CAS, allowing optimiz- ation of primary sedimentation as was analyzed in scenario 2.

Scenario 5

The use of autotrophic nitrogen removal systems, using nitri- fying and anammox biomass, will be considered in the water line. This process is still under development by several research groups ( Siegrist et al. ). On the other hand, TN removal in scenario 5 was similar to that of 88% referred to by these authors for the anammox reaction. Eleven per- cent was transformed to nitrate and the remaining 1% was assimilated by the biomass. Figure 4 depicts the plant layout of the WWTP with secondary treatment for COD removal at SRT of 1 d, using, for example, a high-rate aera- tion CAS and autotrophic tertiary treatment for nitrogen removal. Electrical requirements diminished from 33.7 MWh/d of scenario 3 to 23.9 MWh/d. An EUI of only 0.32 kWh/m 3 was estimated. This process is self- suf cient as energy generation due to biogas combustion is estimated to be 26.7 MWh/d, covering 111% of the energy requirements of the plant.

covering 111% of the energy requirements of the plant. Figure 4 | Nitrogen and COD balances

Figure 4 | Nitrogen and COD balances considering 100 g COD as basis of calculus in the WWTP, considering autotrophic nitrogen removal in the water line.


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Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013


Table 1 summarizes the main results obtained in the ve different scenarios analyzed. It should be stressed that most of the results were obtained using a simple thermodyn- amic analysis. The main objective of this study was to determine the thermodynamic limitations of sewage treat- ment. Of the gross energy associated with wastewater COD, only a fraction can be recovered as electricity. For doing this, WWTP design capacity was xed at 400,000 p.e., in which an anaerobic digester was used for sludge stabiliz- ation. Other authors (Svardal & Kroiss  ) presented energy balances for WWTPs with different design capacities ranging from 5,000 to more than 100,000 p.e. Electrical self-sufciency is possible in those WWTPs designed for carbon removal, e.g. by increasing the amount of COD treated in sludge anaerobic digesters (scenario 2). For those WWTPs in which nitrogen removal is required, self-sufciency depends on other variables, e.g. COD/N ratio of the inuent, efciency of anaerobic digesters or the use of high efciency electric power generators. Combined two-stage biological treatment, as proposed in scenario 5, using a high loaded rst stage for carbon removal and a second autotrophic nitrication/denitrication stage for nitrogen removal in the water line, offer an opportunity to recover the electrical self-sufciency. This process still is under development, and represents a challenge to reduce the energy consumption. Other researchers presented inter- esting proposals for recovering energy, water, and nutrients from WWTPs. Verstraete & Vlaeminck () propose the use of a new process, ZeroWasteWater, but its future appli- cation probably might be limited to those WWTPs in which resource recovery is an issue. ZeroWasteWater implies a

Table 1 |


of the results obtained in the

ve different














1. Conventional





2. Improving






3. Conventional N





4. Anammox





5. Anammox




(water line)

large number of modications in both the WWTP and the sewerage system, in order to increase the inuent COD con- centration, and also relies on the development of the autotrophic nitrogen removal process at ambient tempera- ture. Another possible strategy to recover energy is the use of anaerobic technology, but its application is limited to (sub)tropical regions (van Lier ). In this sense, develop- ment of autotrophic nitrication/denitrication processes in the water line is also an opportunity to reduce nitrogen con- tent of the anaerobic efuents.


Energy self-suf ciency in COD WWTPs could be obtained by increasing the sludge load to the anaerobic sludge diges- ter. This could be accomplished by increasing ef ciency of primary sedimentation, diminishing sludge age in the CAS or improving sludge destruction in the anaerobic digester. Nitrogen removal increases the energy requirements of the WWTPs. More effort should be put into nutrient removal CAS, by diminishing nitrate (energy) washout with the ef uent. The use of the anammox process for treat- ing the centrate is not a way for directly reducing energy requirements. However, this process reduces denitri cation requirements in the CAS, allowing an increase in primary sludge and methane production in the plant. On the other hand, the use of the anammox process in the water line offers a way to recover self-suf ciency. This could be obtained by using a secondary high-rate CAS and tertiary autotrophic nitrogen removal technologies. This is not a proven technology, but its development for treating nitrogen in the water line offers an opportunity to recover the energy sustainability of the WWTPs.


The authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology, through the Novedar-Consolider Project, which funded this study (CSD200700055).


Brown & Caldwell  Evaluation of Combined Heat and Power Technologies for Wastewater Facilities. EPA 832-R-10-006. (accessed 24 September 2012).


J. M. Garrido et al . | Working with energy and mass balances

Water Science & Technology | 67.10 | 2013

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First received 3 October 2012; accepted in revised form 25 January 2013

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