The performance of two laboratory mesophilic anaerobic digesters was studied to determine if the claims for improved mesophilic anaerobic digestion following autothermal pre-treatment are valid and if the benefits claimed are affected by the mesophilic digester SRT. One digester was fed sludge taken after a full-scale autothermal reactor and the other was fed sludge from the same plant just before the autothermal treatment unit. Autothermal treatment did not significantly increase volatile solids destruction kinetics during subsequent anaerobic digestion. The VS destruction rate was 2.7 to 2.8% per day with or without autothermal treatment. Autothermal pre-treatment did not affect methane production per unit VS destroyed at anaerobic digester SRTs ranging from 6 to 12 days. In the digester fed autothermal sludge, higher alkalinity and lower VFA concentration produced a lower VFA to alkalinity ratio, indicating the autothermal pretreatment has the potential to make anaerobic digester operation more stable compared to anaerobic digestion only. Autothermal pretreatment consistently reduced fecal coliform to below detection limits and fecal coliform remained below detection limits during anaerobic digestion.

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