BACKGROUND: Supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) is a promising technology that respects the environment, destroys wastes and allows energy recovery. This process has been applied to many model compounds and real wastewaters at laboratory scale. However, SCWO treatments at pilot plant scale of real wastewaters are scarce. The application of this technology to industrial wastewaters has drawbacks such as corrosion, salt deposition and high cost, so industrial scale-up has been delayed.
RESULTS: In a first stage, for safety reasons the feasibility of SCWO applied to flammable industrial wastewaters was evaluated at laboratory scale in an isothermal plug flow reactor with low concentrations (3–10 g COD L−1), at a constant pressure of 250 bar and at different temperatures in the range 350–500 °C. In a second stage, experiments were conducted with much higher concentrations (20–90 g COD L−1) in a SCWO reactor at pilot plant scale. Experiments at pilot plant scale demonstrated the possibility of working under autothermal conditions and the results were used to estimate the treatment costs for a SCWO plant with a capacity of 1 m3 h−1.
CONCLUSION: Results demonstrated the technical feasibility of using a SCWO process to treat flammable industrial wastewater at pilot plant scale due to the absence of operational drawbacks related to the flammability of this wastewater, such as plugging, pressurization or preheating problems and uncontrolled reactions (explosion, etc.). The economic feasibility was demonstrated, especially bearing in mind the energy recovery optimization. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry