New Siemens study on biodrying: end-product can be used as fertilizer or fuel

Industry requests for a versatile biosolids end-product that could be produced using less energy fueled Siemens Water Technologies  to conduct a pilot study focusing on Mechanically Enhanced Biodrying (MEB) as a new application of the existing Siemens IPS composting technology. The study illustrated how the IPS system serves a dual purpose by biodrying materials for fertilizer or fuel while using minimal energy expenditure, compared to conventional drying methods. It was determined that an automated, agitated bin composting technology could achieve 65 percent solids concentration (35 percent moisture) in biosolids by using only the finished dried product as the amendment.

In the pilot study, the IPS Composting System was found to consistently dry to 65 percent solids with an in-feed mixture of at least 40 percent solids, comprised of dewatered cake (of at least 20 percent solids) and recycled dried product discharged from the IPS system (of at least 60 percent). Overall, the solids concentration increased an average of approximately one percent per day and as much as two percent per day in the agitated bin system when minimum in-feed conditions were met. Summer and winter studies focused on such variables as ambient air temperature, feedstock properties, turning frequency, bin retention time, and process aeration cycles.

The MEB process uses the biosolids’ own biological characteristics to heat the material and, in doing so, to evaporate some of the moisture. Aeration and agitation from the IPS equipment further enhance the biological process drying. The IPS biodrying process is more cost effective and energy efficient than thermal drying, and the resultant end-product can be used as fertilizer or feedstock for incineration. Creating a biosolids fuel product with an energy-conservative process makes MEB an ideal companion for conversion technologies. It was also found that applying similar MEB principles to biosolids composting addresses the challenge confronting plants when wood waste and other carbon-rich amendments are in short supply. Further research is looking at also possibly using the process before gasification.

A versatile system like the MEB that is capable of both composting and biodrying ensures WWTPs of a long-term flexible solution. On the one hand, some EU countries such as Austria, Denmark,  Germany, the Netherlands, and Slovenia have stricter country-specific regulations regarding the agricultural use of biosolids by significantly limiting the maximum annual application of heavy metals. Where agricultural utilization is restricted, incineration is often selected as the sludge or biosolids management option. Therefore, biodrying or MEB would be an appropriate step before incineration. On the other hand, roughly 38 percent of EU countries land-apply treated biosolids, with France, Ireland, Spain, and the UK topping that list. Many of these countries have found composting to be a more socially acceptable, energy-efficient, and environmentally-friendly alternative to landfilling or incineration.   Besides municipal WWTPs, the IPS system is also applicable to other industries: the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) recently approved the IPS system, to be considered a “closed reactor” under Regulation (EC) 1774/2002 to compost catering wastes. The United Kingdom has composting guidelines that are more stringent than most of the other EU countries because of concerns over swine vesicular disease, foot-and-mouth disease, and other animal-related infections.

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The Siemens Industry Sector (Erlangen, Germany) is the worldwide leading supplier of environmentally friendly production, transportation, building and lighting technologies. With integrated automation technologies and comprehensive industry-specific solutions, Siemens increases the productivity, efficiency and flexibility of its customers in the fields of industry and infrastructure. The Sector consists of six divisions: Building Technologies, Drive Technologies, Industry Automation, Industry Solutions, Mobility und Osram. With around 207,000 employees worldwide (September 30), Siemens Industry achieved in fiscal year 2009 total sales of approximately €35 billion.

The Siemens Industry Solutions Division (Erlangen, Germany) is one of the world’s leading solution and service providers for industrial and infrastructure facilities comprising the business activities of Siemens VAI Metals Technologies, Water Technologies and Industrial Technologies. Activities include engineering and installation, operation and service for the entire life cycle. A wide-ranging portfolio of environmental solutions helps industrial companies to use energy, water and equipment efficiently, reduce emissions and comply with environmental guidelines. With around 31,000 employees worldwide (September 30), Siemens Industry Solutions posted sales of €6.8 billion in fiscal year 2009.

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Reference Number: IIS201009672e