The operation of an industrial pilot scale treating wastewater from a fibreboard-processing factory was monitored by an advanced system. The plant, an anaerobic hybrid UASB-UAF bioreactor (Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket-Upflow Anaerobic Filter), was equipped with the following measurement devices: biogas flow-meter, feed and recycling flow-meters, thermometer Pt-100, biogas analyser (CH4 and CO), Hydrogen analyser and pH-meter. Other parameters such as alkalinity, Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and Volatile Fatty Acids (VFA) were determined off-line. All the on-line sensor measurements were monitored, through a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller), which indicated about the plant failures, including the measuring devices (giving messages or alarms to the operator) and provided the set points for the PLC.
The pilot plant was started-up at an initial Organic Loading Rate (OLR) of 2 kg COD/m3.d (Hydraulic Retention Time (HRT) 5 days and 10 kg COD/m3), this value increasing up to 10 kg COD/m3.d by decreasing HRT to 1 day. The behaviour of the bioreactor during start-up and steady state operation was studied. After that, an experiment was performed to analyse the response of the bioreactor to an organic overload. From the results, different variables were evaluated as useful control parameters. Monitoring of CO concentration did not permit the prediction of destabilisation of the bioreactor. However, H2 concentration is quite a sensitive variable, which must be analysed together with other parameters such as methane composition or gas flow-rate. Besides, alkalinity is easy to measure and provides immediate information about the state of the plant, as was shown through the off-line measurements.