A pilot-scale multi-staged UASB (MS-UASB) reactor with a working volume of 2.5 m3 was operated for thermophilic (55°C) treatment of an alcohol distillery wastewater for a period of over 600 days. The reactor steadily achieved a super-high rate COD removal, that is, 60 kgCOD m−3 d−1 with over 80% COD removal. However, when higher organic loading rates were further imposed upon the reactor, that is, above 90 kgCOD m−3 d−1 for barely-based alcohol distillery wastewater (ADWW) and above 100 kgCOD m−3 d−1 for sweet potato-based ADWW, the reactor performance somewhat deteriorated to 60 and 70% COD removal, respectively.

Methanogenic activity (MA) of the retained sludge in the thermophilic MS-UASB reactor was assessed along the time course of continuous run by serum-vial test using different substrates as a vial sole substrate. With the elapsed time of continuous run, hydrogen-utilizing MA, acetate-utilizing MA and propionate-fed MA increased at maximum of 13.2, 1.95 and 0.263 kgCOD kgVSS−1 d−1, respectively, indicating that propionate-fed MA attained only 1/50 of hydrogen-utilizing MA and 1/7 of acetate-utilizing MA. Since the ADWW applied herewith is a typical seasonal campaign wastewater, the influence of shut-down upon the decline in sludge MA was also investigated. Hydrogen-utilizing MA and acetate-utilizing MA decreased slightly by 3/4, during a month of non-feeding period, whereas propionate-fed MA were decreased significantly by 1/5. Relatively low values of propionate-fed MA and its vulnerability to adverse conditions suggests that the propionate degradation step is the most critical bottleneck of overall anaerobic degradation of organic matters under thermophilic condition.

This content is only available as a PDF.