Anaerobic digestion in the kraft pulp and paper industry : Challenges and possibilities for implementation

Abstract: The pulp and paper industry is a large producer of wastewater and sludge, putting high pressure on waste treatment. In addition, more rigorous environmental legislation for pollution control and demands to increase the use of renewable energy have put further pressure on the pulp and paper industry’s waste treatment, where anaerobic digestion (AD) and the production of methane could pose a solution. Kraft pulping makes up 80% of the world production of virgin wood pulp, thus, the wastewaters from this sector represent a large unused potential for methane production.There are three main types of substrates available for AD at pulp and paper mills, the wastewaters, the primary sludge/fibre sludge, and the waste activated sludge. AD treatment of these streams has been associated with several challenges, such as the presence of inhibiting compounds or low degradability during AD. The aim of this thesis was to experimentally address these challenges and potentials, focusing on wastes from kraft mills.Methane potential batch tests showed that many wastewater streams still posed challenges to AD, but the alkaline elemental chlorine-free bleaching stream and the condensate effluents had good methane potentials. Further, the methane potential of kraft mill fibre sludge was high, and co-digestion of kraft mill fibre sludge and waste activated sludge was feasible in stirred tank reactors with sludge recirculation. By increasing the organic loading in a pilot-scale activated sludge facility and thereby lowering the sludge age, the degradability of the waste activated sludge was improved. The higher wastewater treatment capacity achieved by this method provides an opportunity for the mills to increase their pulp and paper production. Further, by dewatering the digestate after AD and returning the liquid to the activated sludge treatment, costs for nutrient supplementation can be reduced.In conclusion, the thesis shows that AD of wastes from the kraft pulp and paper industry was feasible and carried many benefits regarding the generation of methane as a renewable energy carrier, improved wastewater treatment and reduced costs. Different strategies on how AD may be implemented in the kraft pulp and paper industry were formulated and discussed.

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