LCA study of sludge treatment line in WWTP Berlin-Waßmannsdorf: Final report of project CoDiGreen work package 2

The goal of this study is to demonstrate the application of Life Cycle Assessment as a tool for systems analysis in wastewater treatment. Therefore, the process for sludge treatment and disposal at the WWTP Berlin-Waßmannsdorf has been analysed with the methodology of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to determine the total cumulative energy demand and the carbon footprint of the system as exemplary indicators. In addition to the characterization of the status quo in 2009, several measures for an energetic optimization of the system have been evaluated in their effects on the energy balance and greenhouse gas emissions. The process model of the system encompasses all relevant processes of sludge treatment and disposal, including the supply of electricity and chemicals, transport and incineration of the sludge, and treatment of sludge liquor which is recycled back to the WWTP inlet. Products recovered during sludge treatment (biogas from anaerobic digestion and MAP fertilizer) and disposal in incineration (electricity or substitution of fossil fuels) are accounted by credits for the respective substituted products. Overall, sludge treatment and disposal in Berlin-Waßmannsdorf is an energy-positive process, recovering a net amount of primary energy of 162 MJ (45 kWh) per population equivalent and year (PECODa). This is mainly due to the biogas generated in anaerobic digestion and the substitution of fossil fuels in co-incineration. Similarly, the carbon footprint of the process reveals an amount of 11.6 kg CO2-eq/(PECODa) as avoided emissions, thus indicating the environmental benefits of energy recovery from sewage sludge. However, process emissions of the powerful greenhouse gases CH4 and N2O are estimated based on generic emission factors from literature, and can have a distinct influence on the overall carbon footprint. This underlines the necessity to support the results of this LCA with primary data from monitoring of emissions on-site. The evaluation of optimization measures shows the benefits of a system-wide analysis: an enhanced recovery of energy is partially offset by increased energy demand, and the carbon footprint does not always correlate with the energy balance. The different routes for sludge disposal differ heavily in their environmental profile and show potentials for optimisation, especially in mono-incineration of sewage sludge. Some measures are beneficial for both energy and carbon footprint (addition of co-substrates into the digestor, utilization of excess heat with an Organic Rankine Cycle process), while others can decrease energy demand but may potentially increase the carbon footprint (treatment of sludge liquor by deammonification, thermal hydrolysis of excess sludge). Overall, the method of Life Cycle Assessment proved to be well suited for a systematic analysis of the environmental footprint of the activities of Berliner Wasserbetriebe. In the future, the existing process model can be extended to include the entire wastewater treatment plant for a comprehensive evaluation of its environmental profile, e.g. for providing information on the environmental consequences of prospective concepts for site development.

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