The thermophilic-anaerobic treatment of methanol-containing wastewater in an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor, was found to be quite sensitive to pH shocks, both acid and alkaline. The results of the recovery experiments of sludge exposed to an alkaline shock, indicated that the addition or deprivation of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) in the medium, plays an important role in the competition of methanogens and (homo)acetogens for methanol. In addition, caution has to be taken when using NaHCO3 for buffering methanol-containing wastewaters, since its introduction in the system will favour (homo)acetogenesis when proper conditions are not established. Based on these results, a recovery strategy for methanogenesis was proposed where bicarbonate is supplied stepwise, and the reactor is operated in a batch mode. This strategy was found to be appropriate, i.e. the results revealed that the recovery of methanogenesis on methanol from a reactor upset or complete failure caused by pH shock is possible, even in systems where (homo)acetogens are outcompeting methanogens. The time and the number of feedings required will depend on the degree of deterioration of the sludge.

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