Challenges surrounding energy have gained increased attention, which is not least reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Energy issues have also become a pressing matter for most countries in the last decades. The reasons for this are not only related to the effects of the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) from fossil fuels and their impact in climate change, but also span through other issues such as security of energy supply with geopolitical considerations and competitiveness of industry. To address these issues, a collection of public policies ranging from the international to local levels have been implemented.
Sweden has historically had lower energy prices than its European counterparts, which has resulted in its industry having a relatively higher share of electricity in the total energy use by industry. The share of electricity accounts for 35% of total energy use in Swedish industry. This has led to efficiency measures being overlooked by industry, and the pulp and paper industry is by far the biggest energy user, with a share of 51% of the total energy use by industry. The variation of energy prices, and particularly electricity prices have obvious implications on the competitiveness of this sector.
Production of biogas in pulp and paper mills has been gaining attention, and is now the target of an increasing number of scientific studies. The interest for this industry is not only related to security of energy supply and the environmental performance of the biogas itself, but there are also considerations regarding the biogas plant as an alternative to treat the large flows of wastewaters and other waste stream in this sector. There is an estimated biogas production potential of 1 TWh within this industry in Sweden, which accounts for 60% of the current biogas production in the country.
Pulp and paper mills commonly rely on aerated biological treatment to deal with waste streams with high organic content This biological process has a high energy demand, and the integration of an anaerobic treatment, along with the use of the biogas for heat and electricity can yield a net positive energy recovery for the combined plant.
This project analyses the current energy and material performance of an anaerobic biological treatment combined with an aerobic biological treatment in a recycled board mill. The anaerobic treatment is performed upstream of the aerobic one and removes most of the chemical oxygen demand of the wastewater.
Energy and material balances for the plant are presented, and a comparison of the wastewater treatment plant running before and after the start-up of the biogas plant is made. The plant operation with the anaerobic digestion has shown an increased energy use of 9.4% coupled to an increased flow of wastewater of 7.7%. The average biogas production is 72 Nm³/h, which accounts for 440 kWh and is currently being flared. The introduction of AD has largely decrease the organic load in the aerobic treatment, by nearly 50%. This project ends with an optimisation model implemented with the optimisation tool reMIND to investigate potential optimisation strategies for the operation of the combined plant. The model has shown to be adequate to describe electricity use with mean error below 10%. For the biogas production, the mean error was of 16%.