Anaerobic phenol and benzoate degrading consortia were cultivated by acclimation of methanogenic sludges to be capable of degrading completely to CO2 and CH4 1,000 mg/l of phenol within 5–7 days, and 3,000 mg/l of benzoate within 5–7 days, respectively. By using the acclimated sludges, the effect of gaseous atmospheres (H2:CO2/80:20 and N2:CO2/80:20) on the biodegradability and the degradation pathways of phenol and benzoate were examined. Although the anaerobic degradation of phenol was accelerated in the H2/CO2 atmosphere compared with the N2/CO2 atmosphere, benzoate was accumulated. Degradations of benzoate and butyrate were inhibited in the H2/CO2 atmosphere under stirred conditions, but not under static conditions. Through a series of biodegradation tests by using several intermediates in phenol degradation reported previously, the anaerobic degradation pathway of phenol in the N2/CO2 atmosphere was suggested to be phenol → benzoate → cyclohexane carboxylate (or 1-cyclohexene carboxylate) → fatty acids → CO2,CH4.

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