Laboratory experiments have shown that it is possible to cultivate aerobic granular sludge in sequencing batch reactors. In order to direct future research needs and the critical points for successful implementation at large scale, a full detailed design of a potential application was made. The design was based on the laboratory results, and two variants of a full-scale sewage treatment plant based on Granular sludge Sequencing Batch Reactors (GSBRs) were evaluated. As a reference a conventional treatment plant based on activated sludge technology was designed for the same case.
Based on total annual costs both GSBR variants proved to be more attractive than the reference alternative (7-17% lower costs). From a sensitivity analysis it appeared that the GSBR technology was less sensitive to the land price and more sensitive to a rain weather flow (RWF). This means that the GSBR technology becomes more attractive at lower permissible RWF/DWF ratios and higher land prices. The footprint of the GSBR variants was only 25% compared to the reference. However, the GSBR with primary treatment only cannot meet the present effluent standards for municipal wastewater in The Netherlands, mainly because of a too high suspended solids concentration in the effluent.
A growing number of sewage treatment plants in the Netherlands are going to be faced with more stringent effluent standards. In general, activated sludge plants will have to be extended with a post treatment step (e.g. sand filtration) or be transformed into Membrane Bioreactors. In this case a GSBR variant with primary treatment as well as post treatment can be an attractive alternative.