Sludge Treatment and Disposal Are on the Agenda

With the improvement of the economy and the urbanization, sludge production has been increasing as the domestic sewage discharge shows an upward trend, in which the processing rate of sewage discharge is generally above 95% while sludge treatment is not as optimistic as sewage treatment.

The Situation of Sludge Treatment Is Severe as Domestic Sewage Discharge Is Increasing

From 2009 to 2014, the industrial sewage discharge in China was maintained at around 21 billion tons per year, and the urban domestic sewage discharge increased from 35.4 billion tons to 51 billion tons. It is conservatively estimated that the total sewage discharge volume will reach 85.5 billion tons in 2020 according to the annual industrial sewage discharge volume of 21 billion tons and the annual growth rate of urban domestic sewage discharge volume of 4% and the sewage treatment volume in 2020 will be 81.2 billion tons.

During the sewage treatment process, 30%-50% of the pollutants are transferred to the sludge. As the amount of sewage produced and the treatment rate increase, the amount of sludge produced has also increased. In 2018, the amount of sludge produced in China was 80.263 million tons, an increase of 17.93 billion tons from 2014.

The sludge is accompanied by a large number of pollutants such as heavy metals, organic matter, and microorganisms, which has a high risk of secondary pollution. And 80% of the sludge in China has not been properly treated, and the treatment level varies from region to region. In the context of the continuous increase in the amount of new sludge and the large volume of sludge in stock, it is urgent to solve the secondary pollution problem of sludge as soon as possible and speed up the treatment and disposal of sludge.

Sludge treatment is the process of reducing, stabilizing,and harmless treatment of sludge. The higher the degree of sewage treatment, the more sewage residues that need to be treated. Unless it is land treatment or sewage pond treatment, ordinary sewage treatment plants must have sludge treatment facilities. For modern sewage treatment plants, the treatment and disposal of sludge is the last mile of sewage treatment, which is also the most complicated and costly part of the operation of sewage treatment systems.

Sludge Treatment Is in the Fast Lane of Development Under Favorable Policies

In recent years, the government that gradually realized the importance of sludge treatment and disposal has successively issued various policies and regulations, which have been improved from the perspective of the goal of sludge innocuous disposal rate, disposal capacity planning, and sludge disposal fees.

In January 2017, the National Development and Reform Commission, associated with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development formulated the construction planning about sludge treatment and disposal, which clearly stated that investment in facility construction on the urban sewage treatment and recycling reach a total of 564.4 billion yuan, of which 29.4 billion yuan was invested in new or modified sludge innocuous treatment and disposal facilities.

Among them, there are 45,600 tons per day in urban Cities, 9,200 tons per day in county towns, and 5,300 tons per day in Organizational towns. It is proposed that by the end of 2020, the harmless disposal rate of sludge in prefecture-level and above will reach 90%, and that in other cities will reach 75%; counties will strive to reach 60%; key towns will increase by 5 percentage points, in which and the overall planning and centralized treatment of sludge in organic towns will be initially realized. Development goals. It is estimated that by 2020, the scale of harmless sludge disposal in my country will reach about 65 million tons, which is close to doubling the market size.

Besides, the 2020 new version of theLaw of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastealso clearly states that the levy standard of the sewage treatment fee and compensation scope should cover the cost of sludge treatment and the normal operating costs of sewage treatment facilities, which is expected to accelerate in the sludge treatment construction investment during the "14th Five-Year Plan" period.

The PPP Model Accelerates Government-Enterprise Cooperation and Promotes the Development of the Sludge Treatment Industry

The market room of the sludge treatment and disposal has a large space, which also requires a large amount of capital investment. Under the situation of limited government debt, the government-led financing model is no longer applicable. The development of the PPP model has allowed a large amount of social capital to enter the sludge treatment and disposal industry, which will promote the development of the industry.

The PPP method already exists in the domestic sludge treatment industry. In the next few years, this method of sludge treatment projects will have a larger market. The PPP method accelerates the government-enterprise cooperation in sludge treatment, provides a vast channel for the company, and is also one of the government's strategies to deal with environmental problems in sludge treatment. In this transformation of sludge treatment methods, the companies that possess the strong sludge treatment equipment or the key technology of sludge treatment will be in a favorable position.

In tandem with the favorable policies, stricter market supervision, higher processing standards, and process selection based on local conditions will follow. At present, the technical process for sludge disposal has gradually broken through the bottleneck, and how to improve the disposal efficiency as much as possible under the requirements of harmlessness and resource utilization is particularly important to meet the disposal needs.

The entire process of sludge treatment includes front-end treatment processes such as concentration, dehydration, anaerobic digestion, aerobic digestion, and drying, as well as back-end treatment processes such as composting, incineration, landfill, and building materials utilization. Among them, there are three core methods in the front-end, in which the most important technology is drying and dehydration. And the back-end disposal is currently dominated by incineration.

At present, the facilities and systems of sludge treatment and disposal are not perfect, in which many treated products are not fully utilized and the industry still has a lot of room for development. In the future planning, we should base ourselves on the present and look into the future development, rationally choose treatment technology, finally to realize the reduction, harmlessness, stabilization, and recycling of sludge.

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