Energy consumption and sludge production minimization represent rising challenges for wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The goal of this study is to investigate how energy is consumed throughout the whole plant and how operating conditions affect this energy demand. A WWTP based on the activated sludge process was selected as a case study. Simulations were performed using a pre-compiled model implemented in GPS-X simulation software. Model validation was carried out by comparing experimental and modeling data of the dynamic behavior of the mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentration and nitrogen compounds concentration, energy consumption for aeration, mixing and sludge treatment and annual sludge production over a three year exercise. In this plant, the energy required for bioreactor aeration was calculated at approximately 44% of the total energy demand. A cost optimization strategy was applied by varying the MLSS concentrations (from 1 to 8 gTSS/L) while recording energy consumption, sludge production and effluent quality. An increase of MLSS led to an increase of the oxygen requirement for biomass aeration, but it also reduced total sludge production. Results permit identification of a key MLSS concentration allowing identification of the best compromise between levels of treatment required, biological energy demand and sludge production while minimizing the overall costs.

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