A process and apparatus for pretreating microbial sludges in order to enhance secondary anaerobic digestion. The pretreatment process involves disrupting the cellular integrity of municipal sewage sludge through a combination of thermal, explosive decompression and shear forces. The sludge is pressurized and pumped to a pretreatment reactor where it is mixed with steam to heat and soften the sludge. The pressure of the sludge is suddenly reduced and explosive decompression forces are imparted which partially disrupt the cellular integrity of the sludge. Shear forces are then applied to the sludge to further disrupt the cellular integrity of the sludge. Disrupting cellular integrity releases both soluble and insoluble organic constituents and thereby renders municipal sewage sludge more amenable to secondary anaerobic digestion.
CONTRACTUAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION
The United States Government has rights in this invention under Contract No. DE-AC36-83CH10093 between the United States Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Division of the Midwest Research Institute.