The objective of the study presented here was to investigate the performance of an enhanced two-step anaerobic process for the treatment of WWTP sludge. This process was developed to answer the urgent need currently faced by WWTP operators to reduce the production of biosolids, for which disposal pathways are facing increasing difficulties. A pilot plant was operated on a full-scale WWTP (2,500 p.e.) over a period of 4 months. It consisted of a thermal pre-treatment of excess sludge at 175 °C and 40 min, followed by dewatering and methanisation of the centrate in a fixed-film reactor. The thermal lysis had a two-fold enhancing effect on sludge reduction efficiency: firstly, it allowed a decrease of the HRT in the methaniser to 2.9 days and secondly, it yielded biosolids with a high dewaterability. This contributed to further reductions in the final volume of sludge to be disposed of. The two-step process achieved a sludge reduction efficiency of 65% as TSS, thus giving an interesting treatment option for WWTP facing sludge disposal problems.

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