Several levels of complexity are available for modelling of wastewater treatment plants. Modelling local effects rely on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) approaches whereas activated sludge models (ASM) represent the global methodology. By applying both modelling approaches to pilot plant and full scale systems, this paper evaluates the value of each method and especially their potential combination.

Model structure identification for ASM is discussed based on a full-scale closed loop oxidation ditch modelling. It is illustrated how and for what circumstances information obtained via CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis, residence time distribution (RTD) and other experimental means can be used. Furthermore, CFD analysis of the multiphase flow mechanisms is employed to obtain a correct description of the oxygenation capacity of the system studied, including an easy implementation of this information in the classical ASM modelling (e.g. oxygen transfer).

The combination of CFD and activated sludge modelling of wastewater treatment processes is applied to three reactor configurations, a perfectly mixed reactor, a pilot scale activated sludge basin (ASB) and a real scale ASB. The application of the biological models to the CFD model is validated against experimentation for the pilot scale ASB and against a classical global ASM model response. A first step in the evaluation of the potential of the combined CFD-ASM model is performed using a full scale oxidation ditch system as testing scenario.

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