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Editor in Chief: RAFFAELLO COSSU

LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF SEWAGE SLUDGE PYROLYSIS: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF BIOCHAR AS CARBON SEQUESTRATOR AND NUTRIENT RECYCLER

  • Fabian Gievers - Faculty of Resource Management, HAWK, Germany - Chair of Waste and Resource Management, Universität Rostock, Germany
  • Achim Loewen - Faculty of Resource Management, HAWK, Germany
  • Michael Nelles - Chair of Waste and Resource Management, University of Rostock, Germany - DBFZ Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum gemeinnützige GmbH, Germany

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Abstract

The pyrolysis of sewage sludge is an alternative method to recycle the contained nutrients, such as phosphorus, by material use of the resulting biochar. However, the ecological effects of pyrolysis are not easy to evaluate. Therefore, a life cycle assessment (LCA) was carried out to determine the environmental impact of sewage sludge pyrolysis and to compare it with the common method of sewage sludge incineration. In order to identify the most sustainable applications of the resulting biochar, four different scenarios were analyzed. The modeled life cycles include dewatering, drying and pyrolysis of digested sewage sludge and utilization paths of the by-products as well as various applications of the produced biochar and associated transports. The life cycle impact assessment was carried out using the ReCiPe midpoint method. The best scenario in terms of global warming potential (GWP) was the use of biochar in horticulture with net emissions of 2 g CO2 eq./kg sewage sludge. This scenario of biochar utilization can achieve savings of 78% of CO2 eq. emissions compared to the benchmark process of sewage sludge mono-incineration. In addition, no ecological hotspots in critical categories such as eutrophication or ecotoxicity were identified for the material use of biochar compared to the benchmark. Pyrolysis of digested sewage sludge with appropriate biochar utilization can therefore be an environmentally friendly option for both sequestering carbon and closing the nutrient cycle.

Keywords


Editorial History

  • Received: 13 Dec 2020
  • Revised: 26 May 2021
  • Accepted: 14 Jun 2021
  • Available online: 11 Sep 2021

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