Previous work on the anaerobic treatment of olive oil mill effluents (OME) have shown : (a) lipids, even if more easily degraded than phenols, were potentially capable of inhibiting methanogenesis more strongly; (b) a pretreatment based on addition of Ca(OH)2 and bentonite removed lipids almost quantitatively; (c) preliminary biotreatability tests performed on the pretreated OME showed high bioconversion into methane at very low dilutions ratios, especially when the mixture (OME, Ca(OH)2 and bentonite) was fed to the biological treatment without providing an intermediate phase separation. This paper was directed towards two main aims: (a) to optimize pretreatment : the best results in terms of methane production were obtained by addition of Ca(OH)2 up to pH 6.5 and of 10 g L-1 of bentonite; (b) to evaluate the enhancement of anaerobic treatability of OME pretreated under optimized conditions in a lab-scale continuous methanogenic reactor fed with the substrate without intermediate solid/liquid separation: very satisfactory performances were obtained (at an organic load of 8.2 kg COD m-3 d-1 and at a dilution ratio of 1:1.5 total COD removal was 91%, biogas production was 0.80 g CH4 (as COD)/g tot. COD, lipids removal was 98%, phenols removal was 63%). The results confirm the double role played by bentonite (adsorption of the inhibiting substances and release of the adsorbed biodegradable matter in the methanogenic reactor).

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