skip to main content

Title: Hydrothermal Liquefaction and Upgrading of Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant Sludge: A Preliminary Techno-Economic Analysis

A preliminary process model and techno-economic analysis (TEA) was completed for fuel produced from hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of sludge waste from a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and subsequent biocrude upgrading. The model is adapted from previous work by Jones et al. (2014) for algae HTL, using experimental data generated in fiscal year 2015 (FY15) bench-scale HTL testing of sludge waste streams. Testing was performed on sludge samples received from MetroVancouver’s Annacis Island WWTP (Vancouver, B.C.) as part of a collaborative project with the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation (WERF). The full set of sludge HTL testing data from this effort will be documented in a separate report to be issued by WERF. This analysis is based on limited testing data and therefore should be considered preliminary. Future refinements are necessary to improve the robustness of the model, including a cross-check of modeled biocrude components with the experimental GCMS data and investigation of equipment costs most appropriate at the smaller scales used here. Environmental sustainability metrics analysis is also needed to understand the broader impact of this technology pathway. The base case scenario for the analysis consists of 10 HTL plants, each processing 100 dry U.S. ton/day (92.4 ton/day onmore » a dry, ash-free basis) of sludge waste and producing 234 barrel per stream day (BPSD) biocrude, feeding into a centralized biocrude upgrading facility that produces 2,020 barrel per standard day of final fuel. This scale was chosen based upon initial wastewater treatment plant data collected by the resource assessment team from the EPA’s Clean Watersheds Needs Survey database (EPA 2015a) and a rough estimate of what the potential sludge availability might be within a 100-mile radius. In addition, we received valuable feedback from the wastewater treatment industry as part of the WERF collaboration that helped form the basis for the selected HTL and upgrading plant scales and feedstock credit (current cost of disposal). It is assumed that the sludge is currently disposed of at $16.20/wet ton ($46/dry ton at 35% solids; $50/ton dry, ash-free basis) and this is included as a feedstock credit in the operating costs. The base case assumptions result in a minimum biocrude selling price of $3.8/gge and a minimum final upgraded fuel selling price of $4.9/gge. Several areas of process improvement and refinements to the analysis have the potential to significantly improve economics relative to the base case: • Optimization of HTL sludge feed solids content • Optimization of HTL biocrude yield • Optimization of HTL reactor liquid hourly space velocity (LHSV) • Optimization of fuel yield from hydrotreating • Combined large and small HTL scales specific to regions (e.g., metropolitan and suburban plants) Combined improvements believed to be achievable in these areas can potentially reduce the minimum selling price of biocrude and final upgraded fuel by about 50%. Further improvements may be possible through recovery of higher value components from the HTL aqueous phase, as being investigated under separate PNNL projects. Upgrading the biocrude at an existing petroleum refinery could also reduce the MFSP, although this option requires further testing to ensure compatibility and mitigate risks to a refinery. And finally, recycling the HTL aqueous phase product stream back to the headworks of the WWTP (with no catalytic hydrothermal gasification treatment) can significantly reduce cost. This option is uniquely appropriate for application at a water treatment facility but also requires further investigation to determine any technical and economic challenges related to the extra chemical oxygen demand (COD) associated with the recycled water.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1]
  1. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; hydrothermal liquefaction; catalytic hydrothermal gasification; wastewater treatment plant sludge; techno-economic analysis; biocrude upgrading