The biochemical processes involved in the anaerobic degradation of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur compounds can be represented by an oxidation-reduction or electron donor-acceptor scheme. The theoretic values of Gibbs free energy (ΔG0) calculated from thermodynamic data indicate the feasibility of the reactions. The interactions C-S and C-N are well known but there is a lack of information about the interaction N-S. The anaerobic transformation of nitrates using reduced sulfur compounds can be explained considering that nitrate acts as electron acceptor while reduced sulfur compounds are the electron donors.
A new N-S interaction in anaerobic conditions (ORP = -425 mV) has been experimentally observed when treating industrial wastewater rich in organic nitrogen and sulfate. The mass balances of the different nitrogenous and sulfur compounds in the liquid and gas phases clearly indicated an uncommon evolution. An important percentage of the nitrogen entering the reactor as TKN was removed from the liquid phase appearing as N2 in the gas phase. Simultaneously, only part of the sulfate initially present in the influent appeared as sulfide in the effluent or as hydrogen sulfide in the gas. These experimental observations may suggest a new anaerobic N-S biological interaction involving simultaneous anaerobic ammonium oxidation and sulfate reduction, ammonium being the electron donor and sulfate the electron acceptor.