During start up but also during normal operation, anaerobic reactor systems should be run and monitored carefully to secure trouble-free operation, because the process is vulnerable to disturbances such as temporary overloading, biomass wash out and influent toxicity. The present method of monitoring is usually by manual sampling and subsequent laboratory analysis. Data collection, processing and feedback to system operation is manual and ad hoc, and involves high-level operator skills and attention. As a result, systems tend to be designed at relatively conservative design loading rates resulting in significant over-sizing of reactors and thus increased systems cost. It is therefore desirable to have on-line and continuous access to performance data on influent and effluent quality. Relevant variables to indicate process performance include VFA, COD, alkalinity, sulphate, and, if aerobic post-treatment is considered, total nitrogen, ammonia and nitrate. Recently, mid-IR spectrometry was demonstrated on a pilot scale to be suitable for in-line simultaneous measurement of these variables. This paper describes a full-scale application of the technique to test its ability to monitor continuously and without human intervention the above variables simultaneously in two process streams. For VFA, COD, sulphate, ammonium and TKN good agreement was obtained between in-line and manual measurements. During a period of six months the in-line measurements had to be interrupted several times because of clogging. It appeared that the sample pre-treatment unit was not able to cope with high solids concentrations all the time.

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