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Anaerobic Waste Treatment

What is anaerobic treatment?


M&E: Biotreatment without oxygen. Bacteria that survive in anaerobic
conditions are called obligate anaerobes.
Typically:
Organic waste

carbon dioxide + methane

Advantages Over Aerobic Treatment


1. low production of waste biological sludge
- lower free energy release in organic waste conversion
- slow biological growth, low solids production
2. high degree of waste stabilization
- aerobic: 85-90% BOD removal because of high biosolids, only
50% stable waste
- anaerobic: 85-95% BOD removal, 90% stable waste (CH4 not very
soluble in water so waste leaves system)

3. lower nutrients required


- operate at higher BOD, N:P ratios: P&P wastes often lacking in
these nutrients

Advantages Over Aerobic Treatment, cont.


4. no O2 requirements
- lower power requirements
- reduced treatment costs
- not limited by O2 transfer

5. methane production
- may be burned to generate heat
or power

CO2 + H2O
Soluble BOD
1 kg

Aerobic process

0.5 kg

New biomass
0.5 kg
CH4 gas
Biodegradable COD
1 kg

Anaerobic process

> 0.9 kg

New biomass
< 0.1 kg

Disadvantages Over Aerobic Treatment


1. optimum waste stabilization requires warm temperatures. Methanogens
grow slowly (limiting factor)
- mesophyllic: 35 - 38 (95 - 100)
- thermophyllic: 58 - 60 (135 - 140)

2. process is limited by slow biological (methanogenic) growth rates


- requires longer startup period
- limits rate of process adjustment to changing waste loads, temp., etc.

3. environmental sensitivity to O2, toxics, pH


4. more favorable when applied to concentrated waste streams
- BOD>10,000 mg/L

Process Description
A. Conventional

B. High-Rate

(=30-60 days)
(no mixing)

(~15 days)
(complete mix)

Gas out
(CH4 & CO2)
Influent

Influent

scum layer
supernatant
active layer
stabilized solids

sludge

sludge and supernatant to clarifier

Process Description, cont.


C. Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB)
D. Anaerobic contact process used on soluble BOD waste
E. Fixed film anaerobic treatment process
- anaerobic filter (fixed bed)
- expanded or fluidized

Anaerobic Microbiology & Biochemistry

hydrolysis
Complex
organics

Short-chain
soluble
organic
monomers

acid
forming
bacteria

Organic acids:
(acetic, proprionic,
formic, etc.)

acetogenesis
(waste conversion)

methane
forming
bacteria
CO2
CH4

methanogenesis
(waste stabilization)

Hydrolysis: cellulosic bacteria act on organic fibers to produce soluble organic


compounds (cellulose, lignins)
Acetogenesis: acetogenic bacteria convert soluble organics to short-chain
fatty acids (primarily acetic acid)
Methanogenesis: Methanogenic bacteria convert organic acids to CH4 and
CO2, most CH4 leaves the system

Common Volatile Acid Intermediates

acetic acid: CH3COOH


proprionic acid: CH3CH2COOH
formic acid: HCOOH
butyric acid: CH3CH2CH2COOH
caprioc acid: CH3CH2CH2CH2CH2COOH

Methane Bacteria
Methane bacteria
- very sensitive to small concentrations of O2
- slow growth rate
- low rate of organic utilization

Mechanism for methanogenesis


- acetic acid cleavage: C*H3COOH

Reduction of CO2: CO2 + 8H

C*H4 + CO2

CH4 + 2H2O

Note: Microbiologists no longer consider methanogens to be in the bacterial domain. Recent RNA
sequencing places methanogens in the domain Archaea. In fact, humans are more closely
related to cucumbers than methanogens are related to bacteria.

11th Ed. Brook Biology of Microorganisms

Methods of Predicting Methane Production


Waste composition :
a b

n a b
n a b
Cn H a Ob + n H 2O + CO2 + + CH 4
4 2

2 8 4
2 8 4

Prediction from waste stabilization:


One pound UBOD or COD stabilized = 5.62 cubic feet CH4 (STP)

Waste Characteristics for Anaerobic Treatment

organic strength (BOD, COD) + composition

alkalinity

pH (methanogenic range 6.8 7.4)

inorganic nutrient content: BOD:N:P ratio

temperature

potentially toxic materials


heavy metals
ammonia
common cations

Stimulatory/Inhibitory Effects

from: Perry, 1964

Stimulatory and Inhibitory Concentrations


(mg/L)
Stim.

Mod. Inhibit.

Strong Inhibit.

Sodium

100 - 200

3500 - 5500

8000

Calcium

100 - 200

2500 - 4500

8000

Magnesium

75 - 100

1000 - 1500

3000

Effect of Ammonia Nitrogen on Anaerobic Treatment

Ammonia
Nitrogen
Concentration
(mg/L)

Effect on
Anaerobic
Treatment

50 200

Beneficial

200 1000

No adverse effect

1500 3000

Inhibitory at
higher pH levels

Above 3000

Toxic

Unbalanced Systems
Indicators:
volatile fatty acids (VFA) conc.: most important or utilized indicator
pH (related to VFA, CO2
CO2 in gas increasing
total gas production decreasing
waste treatment/stabilization decreasing

Factors:
temperature
organic loading (waste strength)
nature of waste