Recent upgrades to Brisbane City Council's Water Reclamation Plants (WRP) for improved nutrient removal has led to a significant increase in sludge production, and loss in potential anaerobic degradability. This increase in sludge production brought forth an economic driver for an improved, integrated biosolids handling strategy. The solution adopted by Brisbane Water, was a centralised thermal hydrolysis facility at Oxley Creek WRP to process the waste activated sludges generated at a total of five WRPs in the region. The thermal hydrolysis process uses high temperature and pressure to make non-degradable material more readily digestible by anaerobic bacteria and hence achieve greater efficiency in the overall anaerobic digestion process. Dewaterability is also improved, as the thermal hydrolysis process releases some of the bound water from the waste activated sludge. The viability of this solution is linked primarily to the reduction in mass and volume of biosolids which leads to lower transportation and disposal costs. After four months of operation, the Oxley Creek thermal hydrolysis plant has resulted in a 70% reduction in biosolids quantities (bulk volume) and disposal costs. The process is currently being optimised. Savings to date have reached about AUD 80,000 per month. Technical and operational issues which emerged during commissioning are also described.

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