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Applying performance indices in plantwide modelling for a comparative study of wastewater treatment plant operational strategies

Justine De Ketele, Dries Davister, David S. Ikumi


Achievement of good effluent quality is always the main goal for wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) systems. However, these WWTPs have developed further objectives that include efficient design and strategic control options, with the prospect of their conversion into waste resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) that operate on reduced energy costs. With all these aspects becoming an intrinsic part of waste treatment, mathematical models that simulate WWTP unit processes are becoming of increasing relevance for the achievement of WRRF goals (including good effluent quality, low energy costs and nutrient recovery). It is expected that these mathematical models will benefit potential future applications of automation process control, which have also been developing rapidly with the availability of more reliable and affordable sensors. However, simulated automation control strategies require a thorough evaluation protocol to ensure their viability prior to being adopted as efficient operation control measures. This study considers the comparison of different control strategies implemented on a standard WWTP layout, for plant optimization. The initial task was to define performance indices, effluent quality index (EQI) and operation cost index (OCI), based on a previous investigation by the International Water Association (IWA) benchmark simulation modelling (BSM) task group. These performance indices were then used to evaluate the following strategies: (i) adding a fermentation tank, (ii) dosing flocculant and (iii) implementing a balancing tank. A control strategy was only assumed to be effective with improvement or maintenance of effluent quality. Overall, the evaluation exercise proved to be useful for providing expert advice on efficiency of proposed waste treatment system layouts, towards determination of the best configuration of future WRRFs. For instance, it was notable that significant organic strength is needed for removal of nutrients recycled back from the anaerobic digestion (AD) system into the activated sludge (AS) – hence alternate methods to put the nutrient-rich outflow from the AD system to good use are required.

Keywords: WWTP control strategy, activated sludge, performance index, plant wide modelling

AJOL African Journals Online