Annual production of activated sludges in the United States ranges from 7 – 8 million tons. Currently, disposal technologies of these sludges include incineration and landfilling, both of which are heavily regulated and could create adverse environmental impacts. A fraction of the activated sludges can be used as fertilizer once it complies with regulations for Class A biosolids. Activated sludges contain microbial consortia known to produce lipidic materials and many other organic compounds, which could be used to produce biofuels and specialty chemicals. Several studies showed that reasonable yields (2 – 6% weight) of biodiesel could be produced from activated sludge. At these yields however, activated sludge biodiesel is less economical than petroleum diesel. This study describes the production of renewable fuel from activated sludge using Fluidized Catalytic Cracking (FCC). This process could convert most of the compounds present in sludge into fuel, and thus, increase fuel yields and reduce cost.
Several catalysts, sludge to catalyst ratios, sludge moisture content, fluid flow rates and temperatures were tested. Initial results using ZSM-5 at 500°C with air showed considerable production of aromatic compounds, from benzene to methylnaphthalene.
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