Wastewater treatment – one of the most overlooked and yet crucial processes for the sustainability of our cities

None of us really gives much thought to where the water we use (wastewater) goes. We know that it runs into the sewer and eventually makes its way to rivers or oceans.

July 2, 2018

What lies between the sewer and the ocean are the multiple wastewater treatment plants that treat and purify the wastewater from our homes and businesses.

Typically located in remote or large industrial areas, wastewater treatment plants can be identified by their large tanks, open-air reservoirs and network of pipes.

Their primary function is the treatment of wastewater for reuse and disposal.

A population of just 500,000 can generate over 400 million litres of wastewater yearly, making the treatment of water critical to the sustainability of our planet. These plants use multi-stage treatment systems (including filtration, aeration and aerobic digestion) to ensure impurities are safely removed from water.

A secondary function is the creation of biosolids – a nutrient-rich by-product of the wastewater treatment process.

Rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, biosolids can be used in many ways such as agriculture, environmental rehabilitation and mining. Considering where biosolids come from, they are a remarkable feat of recycling ingenuity. The extraction of these biosolids takes place primarily in digester tanks – enormous tanks where extracted solids are broken down by bacteria, removing pathogens and odours.

Waster water treatment plant

Digester tanks require maintenance and cleaning every 2 to 6 years.

This is a delicate process: the contents of the tanks produce lots of methane, an extremely flammable gas. The tanks need to be purged to make them a safe working environment: in general nitrogen is used, as it is non-explosive.

Typically, wastewater treatment plants have relied on bottled nitrogen for digester tank inerting. The nitrogen is fed into the digester tank until purging is completed. For decades, this has been the only solution.

Today wastewater treatment plants gradually adopt portable nitrogen generators.

Plant operators have a keen interest in cost effectiveness and process efficiency; looking at the benefits of portable nitrogen generators is often all that is required to make the switch.

What are some of the biggest advantages given by portable nitrogen generators?

  • The positioning of nitrogen generators is easier.

Trailer-mounted generators are easy to tow into position and started immediately. In comparison, bottled nitrogen cages require a forklift to move – a time consuming and costly process. Bottled nitrogen also needs to be placed in a safe area, where sudden release of the gas will not cause asphyxiation.

  • Nitrogen generators offer full control over the purity, flow and pressure of the nitrogen output.

These numbers are critical to an efficient project. Bottled nitrogen usually comes at 99.99% purity. However, purities between 95% and 99.95% are often all that is required to safely inert the tanks.

  • With a generator, you are extracting nitrogen directly from the air, so there is no waste

With pressurised bottles, depending on how long the nitrogen has been stored for, this wastage can be up to 20% of the initial volume. Plus, you have the freedom to extract exactly as much nitrogen as you need to complete the project, no more no less, so you’re only paying for what you use.

These are just some of the benefits of on-site nitrogen generation.

So why not speak with an Atlas Copco Rental Sales Engineer and find out how on-site nitrogen generation can add value to your business?

Ben Hindle

Digital Marketing Coordinator - Atlas Copco Rental Oceania

Wastewater treatment – one of the most overlooked and yet crucial processes for the sustainability of our cities

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