The effectiveness of acidic thermal treatment (ATT) was examined in a 106-day continuous experiment, when applied to one- or two-stage anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge (4.3% TS). The ATT was performed at 170°C and pH 5 for 1 hour (sulfuric acid for lowering pH). The one-stage process was mesophilic at 20 days hydraulic retention time (HRT), and incorporated the ATT as pre-treatment. The two-stage process consisted of a thermophilic digester at 5 days HRT and a mesophilic digester at 15 days HRT, and incorporated the ATT as interstage-treatment. On average, VSS reduction was 48.7% for the one-stage control, 65.8% for the one-stage ATT, 52.7% for the two-stage control and 67.6% for the two-stage ATT. Therefore, VSS reduction was increased by 15–17%, when the ATT was combined in both one- and two-stage processes. In addition, the dewaterability of digested sludge was remarkably improved, and phosphate release was enhanced. On the other hand, total methane production did not differ significantly, and color generation was noted in the digested sludge solutions with the ATT. In conclusion, the anaerobic digestion with ATT can be an attractive alternative for sludge reduction, handling, and phosphorus recovery.

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