A new reactor based on upflow sludge blanket technology (USB) for fermentation of both the particulate and soluble fractions of domestic wastewater is presented. The process is fed with the total wastewater flow, and carries out suspended solids (SS) retention, fermentation and clarification of the fermented effluent in a single reactor. The study was carried out using pilot scale reactors, under six different operating conditions with regards to hydraulic load (hydraulic retention time, HRT, varying between 1.1 and 4.3 hours) and at a constant temperature (20 ± 1°C).

With regards to primary treatment, the process has been shown to ensure low SS residuals in the fermented effluent under all operating conditions tested. Very low residuals, with an average below 50 mg SS/l, were obtained with an upflow velocity of between 0.75 and 0.9 m/h. These trials have also highlighted the important role played by the adsorption of particulate organic matter on the biological flocs of the sludge blanket in the elimination of SS.

Fermentation efficiencies are superior to those of existing fermenters, the results clearly proving that a majority of the volatile fatty acids produced originate from the soluble fraction of the wastewater. Under the optimum conditions tested, with an HRT = 2.8 hours, 0.17 mg HAc/mg total COD are produced, over 60% of which is generated by the fermentation of the influent soluble organic matter. Under these operating conditions, maximum solubilisation of the particulate fraction has been estimated at 0.13 mg of filtered COD/mg particulate COD (total COD-filtered COD).