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Energy intensity of wastewater treatment plants and influencing factors in China

Niu, Kunyu, Wu, Jian, Qi, Lu, Niu, Qianxin
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.670 pp. 961-970
chemical oxygen demand, data collection, energy conservation, energy efficiency, models, planning, pollutants, potential energy, rain, sewage, sewage treatment, sludge, topography, wastewater, wastewater treatment, China
The wastewater-energy nexus is an emerging concern in the wastewater treatment sector. Understanding the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and the factors that influence it will help to improve planning and managing in order to meet increasing energy conservation demands. In this study, we use a unique big dataset from a pollution source census of all WWTPs in China to establish a quantitative model that relates the energy consumption of WWTPs to major influencing factors. From our results, we found that WWTPs in China are more energy-intensive than their international counterparts. Influencing factors such as treatment scale, technology, treatment degree, load factor, sludge amount, age, topography and wastewater collection area all significantly affect energy efficiency. In terms of energy saving potential, if the influent chemical oxygen demand (COD) concentration is increased to >500 mg/L, the total energy consumption of the wastewater treatment industry can be reduced by at least 20%. Furthermore, potential energy conservation is 5.9% for increasing the load of sewage treatment plants and 3.2% for renovating old WWTPs. We prioritized approaches for WWTP energy conservation and ranked them as follows: 1) establishing rain and sewage diversion facilities and increasing the inlet concentration of pollutants; 2) expanding and improving the sewage treatment pipe network and increasing the utilization rate of WWTPs; and 3) renovating old WWTPs. Our findings provide insights for other countries to improve the wastewater-energy nexus in their wastewater treatment sector.