Upgrading and recovery of fertilizer value of ash from PYRONEER gasification

Raimon Pares Viader

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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Low temperature circulating fluidised bed gasifier, alias Pyroneer, allows the production of energy from biomass with high inorganic content like sewage sludge. The use of the resulting Pyroneer ashes in agriculture is important, as they are rich in essential nutrients like P: fertilizer supply is currently dependent on mineral reserves of P, most of which are located outside the European Union. Major concerns are however, the presence of heavy metals and the low plant availability of P in Pyroneer ashes.
Electrodialysis has been studied by other researchers at the Technical University of Denmark as a technique to recover P and remove heavy metals from incineration sewage sludge ashes. In this method, an electrical current is applied to a suspension of ash in an aqueous solution, so as to electromigrate the dissolved ions towards the electrode of opposite polarity. Ion exchange membranes delimitate different compartments and allow the separation of the ionic species, depending on their charge. Thus, P in its neutral to negative forms in solution (H3PO4/H2PO4-/HPO42-/PO43-) could be separated from metallic cations, including heavy metals (Cd2+, Cu2+, etc.). Previous results showed that most P was recovered in an acidic solution depleted of metals, which can potentially be used in the fertilizer industry. 
The present PhD study aims to investigate the separation of P from heavy metals in different sewage sludge ashes, with focus on the characteristics deciding P solubility and the development of the suitable electrodialytic method. In total, four ashes produced from three different feedstock were studied:
- One from Pyroneer co-gasification of sewage sludge, in which P was 100% precipitated with phosphate accumulating microorganisms, and wheat straw.
- One from Pyroneer gasification of sewage sludge, in which P was 50%  precipitated with Al and Fe salts.
- Two from separate Pyroneer gasification and incineration of the same sewage sludge, the P of which was 30% precipitated with Fe salts.
The results showed that significant amounts of Al/Fe(III)-phosphates could be found through an alkaline leaching in the two ashes from gasification of sewage sludge with chemically precipitated P. In contrast, a considerable lower proportion of Al/Fe(III)-phosphates were found for the incineration sewage sludge ashes, whereas Ca was found to control P solubility at low pH for the ash with biologically precipitated P. Using a 2-compartment electrodialytic cell, in which the ash suspension was acidified, over 80% of P could be recovered from both the Pyroneer ashes with biologically precipitated P and the incineration sewage sludge ashes. However, P recovery was limited to a 40% for the other two ashes using the same setup, which was due to the higher presence of Al/Fe(III)-phosphates. In order to increase the extraction of P for these ashes, an innovative electrodialytic method was designed, for which a patent application was filed. In this new technique, a 2-compartment cell was combined sequentially with a second cell, in which the ash suspension was alkalinised in order to dissolve Al/Fe(III)-phosphates, achieving a recovery of up to 70% of P. The final recovery product in all cases was a diluted H3PO4 acid solution (<10 g P/L) with a lower ratio of metallic impurities than in the original ash. Further modifications of the electrodialytic cell allowed a reduction of the ratios of most metals to P to the levels of wet process phosphoric acid, widely used in the manufacturing of fertilizers.
Several other improvements can entail a higher % of P recovery and an optimisation of the electricity consumption. Another membrane technique (forward osmosis) can also increase the concentration of P with minor energy consumption. Nevertheless they need to be addressed in future studies.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark, Department of Civil Engineering
Number of pages155
Publication statusPublished - 2016
SeriesB Y G D T U. Rapport


Upgrading and recovery of fertilizer value of ash from PYRONEER gasification of low-value an difficult biomass feedstock

Pares Viader, R., Jensen, P. E., Ahrenfeldt, J., Hauggaard-Nielsen, H., Ottosen, L. M., Laursen, S., Bundgaard, E. & Rodriguez-Maroto, J. M.

Technical University of Denmark


Project: PhD

Cite this

Pares Viader, R. (2016). Upgrading and recovery of fertilizer value of ash from PYRONEER gasification. Technical University of Denmark, Department of Civil Engineering. B Y G D T U. Rapport, No. R-360