The effects of sulfate concentration and COD/S ratio on the anaerobic degradation of butyrate were investigated by using 2.0 L anaerobic chemostat-type reactor at 35°C. The study was conducted over a wide range of the COD/S ratio (1.5 to 148) by varying COD concentrations (2500–10000 mg/L) and sulfate concentrations (68–1667 mg-S/L) in the substrate. The sludge retention time at each COD/S ratio was changed from 5 to 20 days. The interaction between methane producing bacteria (MPB) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) was evidently influenced by COD/S ratio in the substrate. When COD/S ratio was 6.0 or more, methane production was the predominate reaction and over 80% of the total electron flow was used by MPB. At the COD/S ratio of 1.5, SRB utilzed over 50% of the total electron flow. A large amount of sulfate reduction resulted in not only the decrease of methane production, but also the rapid increase of the bacterial growth. The degradation pathway of butyrate and the composition of bacterial populations in the reactor were also dominated by COD/S ratio. In sulfate depleted condition, butyrate was degraded to methane via acetate and hydrogen by MPB. On the other hand, butyrate was firstly degraded into sulfide and acetate in sulfate rich conditions by SRB, and the produced acetate was then degraded by acetate consuming MPB and SRB. The methanogenesis from acetate was inhibited by the high concentration of sulfide.

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