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Vapour condensation
with integrated heat recovery

Fig. 1: Model of a vapour condensation system

The task

Vapours arise while the sludge is being dried, and they are also associated with other thermal sludge treatment processes. In all instances the water vapour is mixed with larger or smaller quantities of air. Furthermore the vapour also contains smaller quantities of other substances expelled from the sewage sludge. Prior to their deodorisation it is necessary to reduce the volume by condensing the steam contained in the vapours.

The vapours also contain nearly all the heat consumed for sludge drying. Consequently, it is essential to recover the largest possible amount of this heat for use a second time, thereby increasing operating efficiency.

Our solution

Vapour cooling condenses the steam and releases the condensation heat. There are two options to use this heat:

Indirectly cooled condensers, e.g. tubular heat exchangers, are unsuitable for this purpose because the vapours from the sludge contain grease, oil and dust which leave a deposit that has to be removed by frequent cleaning.

Contact condensers have proved their worth in this context because the vapours are brought into direct contact with the coolant. Water is a suitable coolant, provided that it contains few hardeners, recooled condensate or sewage sludge.

Process principle

Vapour condensation takes place in three stages:

  1. To produce hot water the vapours are cooled in an injection condenser with condensate that is circulated to transfer the heat via a heat exchanger to the hot-water system.
  2. Sludge preheating in contact condensers where the sludge is passed over cascade elements in counter-flow to the vapours.
  3. The last part of steam contained in the vapours is precipitated in a final condenser by injecting cooled condensate or cooling water.

A single-stage condensation process is used if the heat contained in the vapours is not to be recovered.

Description of the installation

Fig. 2: Vapours condensation with heat utilisation

A two-stage installation for hot-water generation is shown as an example in fig. 2. The principal components are the two condensers where the heat is recovered in the first one, while the second one is used to cool down the residual vapours still further.

In both stages the steam contained in the vapours is precipitated by the circulated condensate which is atomised by special nozzles and pumps and then recooled in heat exchangers. The condensation heat is transferred to the hot-water system of the clarification plant in the circuit of the first condenser. Feed-in temperatures of between 70C and 80C are normally achieved, and in special cases even higher. However, the amount of heat that can be recovered diminishes with increasing feed-in temperature.

Fig. 3: Vapours condensation with sludge preheating

Fig. 3 shows a circuit in which the waste heat is used for sludge preheating. The sludge is fed into the head of the condenser and flows downwards over the cascades preserving the floccules. The lower section of the sludge contact condenser has been enlarged to the point that it can function as a supply tank for the sludge feeding pumps of the dewatering system.

The second condenser stages usually cools down the remaining vapours to between 30 and 40C. Excessive condensate flows to the sewage clarification plant. The exhaust air leaving the second condenser contains the non-condensable gases and a very small amount of steam. For complete deoderisation the exhaust air is conducted into the firing chamber of the boiler or into a biofilter for cleaning.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4 shows as dewatering in a centrifuge is improved by preheating of the sludge. In this case digested sludge was treated; deviation of points due to operational fluctuations.

Technical data

LIMUS injection and sludge contact condensers are made for all capacities encountered in practice. However, a separate condenser installation should be assigned to each drying line.

Amount of recovered heat: over 70%
Condensate exit temperature: 30-40C
Hot/warm water temperature: up to 80C

The stainless steel condensers are operated with a slight vacuum.

Advantages of contact condensation

The process is characterised by a number of substantial advantages:

Fig. 5: Three-stage vapours condensation in a large German sewage sludge drying plant.