In this study, granular sludge formation was carried out using an aluminum chloride supplement in an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor treating natural rubber processing wastewater. Results show that during the first 75 days after the start-up of the UASB reactor with an organic loading rate (OLR) of 2.65 kg-COD·m−3·day−1, it performed stably with a removal of 90% of the total chemical oxygen demand (COD) and sludge still remained in small dispersed flocs. However, after aluminum chloride was added at a concentration of 300 mg·L−1 and the OLR range was increased up to 5.32 kg-COD·m−3·day−1, the total COD removal efficiency rose to 96.5 ± 2.6%, with a methane recovery rate of 84.9 ± 13.4%, and the flocs began to form granules. Massively parallel 16S rRNA gene sequencing of the sludge retained in the UASB reactor showed that total sequence reads of Methanosaeta sp. and Methanosarcina sp., reported to be the key organisms for granulation, increased after 311 days of operation. This indicates that the microbial community structure of the retained sludge in the UASB reactor at the end of the experiment gave a good account of itself in not only COD removal, but also granule formation.

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