Integrated anaerobic digestion and UV photocatalytic treatment of industrial wastewater in fluidized bed reactors

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Apollo, Seth Otieno
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Vaal University of Technology
Anaerobic digestion (AD) is usually applied in the treatment of distillery effluent due to the fact that it is effective in chemical oxygen demand (COD) reduction and bioenergy recovery. However, due to the presence of biorecalcitrant melanoidins present in distillery effluent, AD is ineffective in colour reduction. For this reason, ultraviolet (UV) photodegradation, which is effective in melanoidins’ degradation, can be integrated with AD to achieve high efficiency in colour and COD reduction. However, the UV process is energy intensive, majorly due to the electricity requirement of the UV lamp. In contrast, the AD process has high potential of renewable energy production in the form of biomethane, which can be transformed into electrical energy and applied to supplement the energy requirement of the UV process. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of a combined AD-UV system in colour and COD reduction for the treatment of distillery effluent in fluidised bed reactors. The potential of the application of the bioenergy produced by the AD process to supplement the energy intensive UV process was evaluated and modelled using response surface methodology. In the first place, the optimal hydrodynamic conditions of the fluidised bed reactors were determined using optical attenuation technique. The best homogeneity in the bioreactor, in which zeolite was used as microbial support, was found to be at a superficial liquid velocity of 0.6 cm/s while the best catalyst and gas hold up in the photoreactor were found to be 0.077 and 0.003, respectively. At these conditions, it was found that the initial biological step removed about 90% of COD and only about 50% of the colour while photodegradation post-treatment removed 98% of the remaining colour. Kinetic analysis of the bioreactor showed that ~ 9% of the feed total organic carbon (TOC) was non-biodegradable and this was attributed to the biorecalcitrant melanoidins. Photodegradation post-treatment mineralized the biorecalcitrant melanoidins via a reductive pathway as was indicated by the formation of NH4+ in large quantity compared to NO3-. Kinetic analysis further showed that the rate of substrate utilization in the bioreactor increased with an increase in organic loading rate and it was inversely proportional to the rate of photodegradation post-treatment. Modeling using response surface methodology (RSM) was applied to predict the effects of the operating parameters of the initial AD step on the performance of the photodegradation post-treatment process and the energy efficiency. Energy analysis of the integrated system showed that the AD process could produce 59 kWh/m3 of electricity which could supplement the electricity demand of the UV lamp by 30% leading to operation cost reduction of about USD 4.8/m3. This led to a presumed carbon dioxide emission reduction (CER) of 28.8 kg CO2e/m3.
PhD (Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology), Vaal University of Technology
Industrial wastewater, Anaerobic digestion, UV photocatalytic, Bioenergy production