Application of self-sustaining smouldering combustion for the destruction of wastewater biosolids

Rashwan, Tarek; Gerhard, Jason I. and Grant, Gavin P. (2016). Application of self-sustaining smouldering combustion for the destruction of wastewater biosolids. Waste Management, 50 pp. 201–212.



Managing biosolids, the major by-product from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), persists as a widespread challenge that often constitutes the majority of WWTP operating costs. Self-sustained smouldering combustion is a new approach for organic waste treatment, in which the waste – the combustion fuel – is destroyed in an energy efficient manner after mixing it with sand. Smouldering has never been applied to biosolids. Column experiments, using biosolids obtained from a WWTP, were employed to identify if, and under what conditions, smouldering could be used for treating biosolids. The parameter space in which smouldering was self-sustaining was mapped as a function of key system metrics: (1) sand/biosolids mass fraction, (2) biosolids moisture content, and (3) forced air flux. It was found that a self-sustaining reaction is achievable using biosolids with water content as high as 80% (with a biosolids lower heating value greater than 1.6 kJ/g). Moreover, results suggest that operator-controlled air flux can assist in keeping the reaction self-sustaining in response to fluctuations in biosolids properties. This proof-of-concept demonstrates the potential for smouldering as a new energy efficient biosolids disposal method for very wet (i.e., minimally processed) biosolids that may offer WWTPs significant operating cost savings. This study emphasizes smouldering’s usefulness as a novel waste management technique.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions