The Deep Shaft process, originating from ICI Ltd. in the U.K., has been further developed by C-I-L Inc., Eco-Technology Division into an extremely energy efficient, high rate biological treatment process for industrial and municipal wastewaters. The Deep Shaft is essentially an air-lift reactor, sunk deep in the ground (100 - 160 m): the resulting high hydrostatic pressure together with very efficient mixing in the shaft provide extremely high oxygen transfer efficiencies (O.T.E.) of up to 90% vs 4 to 20% in other aerators. This high O.T.E. suggests real potential for Deep Shaft technology in the aerobic digestion of sludges and animal wastes: with conventional aerobic digesters an O.T.E. over 8% is extremely difficult to achieve. This paper describes laboratory and pilot plant Deep Shaft aerobic digester (DSAD) studies carried out at Eco-Research's Pointe Claire, Quebec laboratories, and at the Paris, Ontario pilot Deep Shaft digester.

An economic pre-evaluation indicated that DSAD had the greatest potential for treating high solids content primary or secondary sludge (3-7% total solids) in the high mesophilic and thermophilic temperature range (25-60°C) i.e. in cases where conventional digesters would experience severe limitations of oxygen transfer. Laboratory and pilot plant studies have accordingly concentrated on high solids content sludge digestion as a function of temperature.

Laboratory scale daily draw and fill DSAD runs with a 5% solids sludge at 33°C with a 3 day retention time have achieved 34% volatile solids reduction and a stabilized sludge exhibiting a specific oxygen uptake rate (S.O.U.R.) of less than 1 mgO2/gVSS/hour, measured at 20°C. This digestion rate is about four times faster than the best conventional digesters. Using Eco-Research's Paris, Ontario pilot scale DSAD (a 160 m deep 8 cm diameter u-tube), a 40% reduction in total volatile solids, (or 73% reduction of biodegradable VS) and a final SOUR of 1.2 mg02/gVSS/hour have been achieved for a 4.6% solids sludge in 4 days at 33°C, with loading rates of up to 7.9 kg VSS/m3-day.

Laboratory runs at thermophilic temperatures (up to 60°C) have demonstrated that a stabilized sludge (24-41% VSS reduction) can be produced in retention time of 2 days or less, with a resulting loading rate exceeding 10 kg VSS/m3-day.

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