SAI technology enables sludge cake handling system upgrade


MEPCA found out how an innovative solution from SEEPEX met the requirements of a challenging sludge cake pumping application as part of the upgrade of a treatment facility in Ireland.

A modernisation project for Osberstown STF (sludge treatment facility) managed by Veolia involved the upgrade from a very energy-intensive thermal drying plant to advanced anaerobic digestion using their Exelys thermal hydrolysis process (THP). The scope of supply also included a new dewatering plant with three belt presses, and three sludge cake pumps to transfer the dewatered sludge into the THP feed silos.

A complex process

The upgrade project presented an immediate challenge: how to fit the new THP and dewatering plant into the restricted space of the existing building. The compact design of Veolia’s Exelys process significantly reduced the installation space required for the THP.

However, due to the space constraints, using a conventional multi-stage pumping system required to transfer 18-27% dry solids (DS) sludge cake through a total of 50m, including vertical pipework with long-radius 90° bends, would not be possible.

The dewatered sludge handling system needed to have the operational flexibility to accommodate a fully automated 24/7 operation with one, two or all three presses in operation at the same time, discharging into either of the two existing sludge cake silos through common discharge pipework.

SEEPEX open hopper pumps sit under the belt presses.

A solution for sludge cake transfer

Having worked together on many projects over the years, Veolia engaged with SEEPEX to explore how to install a sludge cake handling system within the reduced footprint. Upon consultation, SEEPEX’s Smart Air Injection (SAI) solution was selected: a highly efficient system involving a progressive cavity pump and pneumatic dense phase conveying technology, able to transport 16-40% DS dewatered sludge with a significantly lower operating pressure requirement.

SEEPEX supplied and commissioned three sludge cake pumps with 2.5m custom-made hoppers to suit the dimensions of the dewatered belt presses, the associated boundary layer injection pumps as well as the SAI controls.

The compact SAI system offered considerable savings by allowing the new plant to be installed within the existing sludge dryer building. By using dense phase conveying, Veolia was able to lower the discharge pressure from 16-18 bar to 3-4 bar, enabling smaller cake pumps compared to the 4-stage pumps otherwise required for a conventional system.

Commenting on the upgradeAlan Whitty, Principal Mechanical Engineer at Veolia, said:

“I have worked with sludge cake pumping systems for 17 years, but I have never seen anything like the SAI installation at Osberstown – I am extremely impressed with it. I would have to say that the SAI installation has fundamentally changed how I would approach sludge cake transfer design and plant layout in the future.”

The robust SAI system requires nearly 50% lower power compared to conventional pumping with subsequent energy cost savings. SAI has proven to have the operational flexibility required by the process and enables the pipework to be emptied when idle, eliminating the risk of cake line blockages; it is easy to operate and extremely reliable.

SEEPEX’s engineered solution using SAI technology and their proven cake pumping expertise have enabled Veolia to upgrade its sludge cake handling system which feeds the THP process at Osberstown STF.


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