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Barber, W., Thermal hydrolysis for sewage treatment: a critical review, 2014


A review concerning the development and applicability of sewage sludge thermal hydrolysis especially prior to anaerobic digestion is presented. Thermal hydrolysis has proven to be a successful approach to making sewage sludge more amenable to anaerobic digestion. Currently there are 75 facilities either in operation or planning, spanning several continents with the first installation in 1995. The reported benefits of thermal hydrolysis relate to: increased digestion loading rate due to altered rheological properties, improved biodegradation of (especially activated) sludge and enhanced dewaterability. In spite of its relative maturity, there has been no attempt to perform a critical review of the pertinent literature relating to the technology. Closer look at the literature reveals complications with comparing both experimental- and full-scale results due to differences in experimental set-up and capability, and also site-specific conditions at full-scale. Furthermore, it appears that understanding of thermodynamic and rheological properties of sludge is key to optimizing the process, however these parameters are largely overlooked by the literature. This paper aims to bridge these complexities in order to elucidate the benefits of thermal hydrolysis for sewage treatment, and makes recommendations for further development and research.

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