For several years, a 1 m3 fixed bed anaerobic digestion process has been operated for the treatment of distillery vinasses. This reactor has been fully instrumented with the following variables available on-line: pH, temperature, liquid and gas flow rates, gas composition (i.e., CH4, CO2 and H2), concentration of bicarbonate, chemical oxygen demand, total organic carbon, volatile fatty acids and partial and total alkalinity, these last four variables being measured twice by different techniques (i.e., using a TOC analyzer, a titrimetric sensor and an infrared spectrometer). The purpose of this paper is to compare the respective benefits of advanced instrumentation for the monitoring of wastewater treatment processes in general, and for anaerobic digestion in particular. It will also provide some statistical analysis of the time required to operate a fully instrumented wastewater treatment process. It is indeed well admitted in the literature that instrumentation is usually the main limitation step for using closed-loop control. However, it is our opinion that, in the near future, this situation will change. This point is discussed based on our four years practical experience.

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