Life cycle assessment comparing the treatment of surplus activated sludge in a sludge treatment reed bed system with mechanical treatment on centrifuge

Julie Dam Larsen, Marieke ten Hoeve, Steen Nielsen*, Charlotte Scheutz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

In Denmark, the conventional method for treating sewage sludge is mechanical dewatering and subsequent storage. However, sludge treatment reed bed systems, which are holistic sludge treatment facilities combining the dewatering, mineralisation and storage of sludge, have been more common during the last three decades. Treatment of sludge in a sludge treatment reed bed system can be combined with post-treatment (further dewatering and mineralisation) on a stockpile area. This study aimed to compare the environmental performances of a mechanical sludge treatment method with the sludge treatment reed bed system strategy, using the life cycle assessment approach and a life cycle inventory based on newly generated data obtained from Danish reference facilities. The scenarios based on the different treatment methods were initiated by sludge entering the sludge treatment reed bed system or the centrifuge and terminated by land application of the final sludge product. The environmental impacts caused by the sludge treatment reed bed system strategy were comparable to or lower than those caused by the mechanical sludge treatment method. The impacts on climate change were the same for all the treatment scenarios; however, the conversion of organic carbon and nitrogen into gas species was more efficient in the sludge treatment reed bed system compared to mechanical treatment. Thus, mechanically treated sludge contained more nitrogen, causing higher nitrogen emissions (nitrous oxide, nitrate and ammonia) when applied on land. Furthermore, the impact of resource depletion was higher for mechanical dewatering due to a larger fossil fuel demand related to daily operation and longer transportation distances in this scenario. According to the results of the life cycle assessment, there were no considerable environmental gains made by combining the treatment of sludge in a sludge treatment reed bed system with post-treatment on a stockpile area. However, some practical aspects, which are not expressed in a life cycle assessment, should also be taken into consideration when evaluating the performances of sludge treatment scenarios.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume185
Pages (from-to)148-156
Number of pages9
ISSN0959-6526
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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