Aerobic granulation in sequencing batch reactors is widely reported in literature and in particular in SBAR (Sequencing batch airlift reactor) configuration, due to the high localised hydrodynamic shear forces that occur in this type of configuration. The aim of this work was to observe the phenomenon of the aerobic granulation and to confirm the excellent removal efficiencies that can be achieved with this technology. In order to do that, a laboratory-scale plant, inoculated with activated sludge collected from a conventional WWTP, was operated for 64 days: 42 days as a SBAR and 22 days as a SBBC (sequencing batch bubble column). The performances of the pilot plant showed excellent organics removal. COD and BOD removal efficiencies were respectively, 93 and 94%; on the contrary, N-removal efficiency was extremely low (5%–45%). The granules dimensions increased during the whole experimentation; change of reactor configuration contributed to further improve this aspect. The experimental work confirmed the essential role of hydraulic settling time in the formation of aerobic granules and in the sludge settleability and the need to find an optimum between granule size and oxygen supply to achieve good N-removal efficiency.

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