The suitability of an internal thermophilic anaerobic treatment system for closing the water circuits in thermomechanical pulp (TMP) production was studied. The dissolution of wood organics in the water circuit was simulated by hot disintegration of TMP pulp, while the water system closure was simulated by repeated hot disintegration of TMP pulp with recirculated water. The upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactors were started at 55 and 70°C with mesophilic inoculum, and stable performances were established within 60 days at both temperatures. Closing the water circuits without internal treatment rapidly resulted in increased chemical oxygen demand (COD) in the recirculated water. In the closed, internally treated water circuits, the UASB reactors removed all the COD and ultraviolet absorbance at 280 nm (UV280; estimation for lignin content) dissolved in the recirculated water during the hot disintegration of the TMP pulp (carbohydrates were not dissolved). The results of this study suggest that thermophilic anaerobic treatment could be feasible at least as a part of an internal purification system to close the water circuit in the TMP process.

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