An anaerobic fixed bed reactor, filled with small floating supports of polyethylene material (Bioflow 30) as inert media, was operated for 6 months to treat vinasse (wine residue after distillation). Bioflow 30 has a density of 0.93 and a specific area of 320 m2/m3. The experimental results showed that the efficiency of the reactor in removal of soluble COD was very good with a maximum organic loading rate of more than 30 g of COD/L.d and a COD removal efficiency of more than 80%. Bioflow 30 showed a high capability of biomass retention with 4–6 g of dried solids per support. Thus, at the end of the experiment, the fixed biomass represented 57 g of solids/L of reactor. The visual observation of the supports and the specific activity (0.54 g COD/g solids.d) of the fixed solids, which remained close to the values obtained with suspended biomass, showed that entrapment was playing an important role in the retention of the biomass inside the reactor. It was then possible to operate the reactor with a very high loading rate as the result of the increase of the solids in the reactor and the maintaining of the specific activity. Bioflow 30 is then an excellent support for use in a high rate anaerobic fixed bed.

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