Energy recovery and nutrient reuse from sewage sludge has traditionally been achieved via anaerobic digestion/power generation with land application of the biosolids. By contrast, thermal processes such as pyrolysis have typically been used only for energy recovery. One such technology has demonstrated at commercial scale that all of the energy in sludge can be beneficially recovered and reused. No attempt was however made to recover and reuse sludge nutrients. There are many potential benefits of using pyrolysis for both energy and nutrient recovery. Firstly, unlike digestion, the principal energy product is oil, which can readily be stored and used when required, ensuring that energy recovery is maximised. Secondly is that the sludge nutrients are recovered in the pyrolysis char. Laboratory soil incubation studies using char from the Subiaco demonstration plant were conducted over an eight-week period to confirm nutrient availability. Results from this study showed that the phosphorus in the char is plant available although the nitrogen was insoluble. Based on these results it appears that there is potential to use pyrolysis as an effective means to recover and reuse both the energy and the very valuable phosphorus present in sewage sludges.

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