Vinasse from sugar-cane alcohol production is generated in great amounts in Brazil and is disposed on soil “in natura”. Only a few distilleries use mesophilic anaerobic digestion, so far, for gas recovery and vinasse treatment or conditioning, due to an unfavorable economical balance.

Thermophilic anaerobic digestion was studied in a large-scale pilot-plant (75 m3 UASB reactor), since vinasses are generated at high temperatures, and no experiments on this subject are reported in the literature, except for a few laboratory assays using pure substrates and other wastewaters.

This work demonstrates the feasibility of sugar-cane vinasse thermophilic anaerobic digestion in UASB reactors.

The reactor was operated for 280 days, as far as possible like a full-scale plant; at applied organic loading rates of 25-30 kg COD/, 72% COD removal and 10 Nm3gas/ could be achieved. Granulation of the sludge was essential in order to maintain good stability of the process; almost no soda was necessary for pH control.

For full-scale implementation, re-start of the thermophilic process, after several months without feeding, has to be studied yet.

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