Performance correction of activated sludge process for coke oven

In the year 2017, while we was canvassing for prospective clients through , we came across EMD Head for an integrated steel plant. After initial exchange of information, we were informed that the company is looking for someone to work on their existing ETP performance correction of activated sludge process and up gradation. The organization had existing CGP and were adding further Coke Oven batteries. It was imperative for them to provide assurance to the authorities that their existing ETP would take care of effluents generating from both units and has capability to treat the effluents.

However, the principal issue was that existing ETP was not delivering results as per latest PCB guidelines for wastewater discharge within steel industry. ETP itself was designed by leading consultants and EPC work was done by another leading organization in the field. Despite having large infrastructure, the ETP was not performing as per the design requirement and expectations. So everyone in the organization was sceptical whether the ETP was capable enough to handle the effluents generating from both Coke Oven and CGP.

After initial analysis of the existing ETP and comparing it with standard design parameters and actual parameters of inlet wastewater quality, it was our conclusion that existing ETP can be configured to achieve required results and has enough capability to treat both Coke Oven and CGP effluents.

Based on our analysis of data available and site visit, we proposed the management a plan with proposed modifications required in the ETP to achieve the latest norms for Phenol, Ammonia , Cyanide and COD standards for Integrated Steel plants.

The proposal was met with lot of scepticism and doubts within the organization as the organization’s earlier experience with the ETP running was not pleasant. We had given them assurance that if they follow our modification suggestions and practice the operational window we were proposing, we can guarantee them required results without any issue. After a lot of online meetings and presentations at various levels, finally we were awarded the contract but with a lot of scepticism and fear in mind that they were trusting a company who was completely unknown to them. After all we were not representing a very large conglomerate or so called big companies of the field!

We kept telling the EMD head and Plant head to trust us and assured them that if they can give us required equipment, chemicals and permission to operate the plant as per our operating window, results are guaranteed. Still fear was mounting on them because if we failed, the whole unit would have faced shutdown due to noncompliance for treated effluent criteria.

So in the first quarter of 2019, we started working on the ETP. It was such a big mess created by giants of the field, that we had already informed the clients that correcting it would require atleast one year. After all Coke Oven and CGP effluents are toxic and achieving required level of nitrification in such effluent demands a lot patience and continuous efforts. Patience, Perseverance and practicing disciplined operating protocol was key to success.

Despite hurdles due to lot of internal opinions and scepticism, finally management had started responding to our pleas for requisite chemicals, equipment and utilizing them in the ETP without making any cost consideration for the time being. Reviving nearly dead patient requires lot of time, energy and cost consideration.

Finally, at the end of the second quarter, first time in the history of the plant operation, outlet ammonia was showing reducing trend compared to the inlet ammonia concentrations. There were many process upsets due to inherent problems associated with an integrated steel plant but finally, the biological life within the reactors was revived. Once the bugs had started flourishing in the reactors, next task was simply to keep the right environment for their optimum growth which we have been doing since last one year day and night without fail.

Finally, the results are so encouraging that many are feeling like this is a miracle! You can see with the attached video. The left side clip is of the biomass condition in aeration tank in 2018 when we was just starting the project and the right side clip is showing perfectly brownish, well flocculating biomass achieving remarkable results which are unparallel in any steel industry.

In the past one and half year, we are doing so much effort in order to achieve these results that now we have become attached to the plant and people developing a kind of love/hate relationship!

In the subsequent blogs, we will share information related to the various problems we had faced with this plants in terms of its engineering, operation methodology and many other issues while optimizing it. Keep following!

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Amit Christian, having MSc degree in Environmental Science from UK university has more than 20 years of experience in the field of water and wastewater treatment. He has expertise in MBBR and IFAS process design, engineering and process start up /commissioning.