The applicability of fluidised-bed reactor (FBR) based sulphate reducing bioprocess was investigated for the treatment of iron containing (40–90 mg/L) acidic wastewater at 65 °C. The FBR was inoculated with sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) originally enriched from a hot mining environment. Ethanol or acetate was supplemented as carbon and electron source for the SRB. A rapid startup with 99.9, 46 and 29% ethanol, sulphate and acetate removals, in respective order, was observed even after 6 days. Iron was almost completely removed with a rate of 90 mg/L.d. The feed pH was decreased gradually from its initial value of 6 to around 3.7 during 100 days of operation. The wastewater pH of 4.3–4.4 was neutralised by the alkalinity produced in acetate oxidation and the average effluent pH was 7.8±0.8. Although ethanol removal was complete, acetate accumulated. Later the FBR was fed with acetate only. Although acetate was present in the reactor for 295 days, its oxidation rates did not improve, which may be due to low growth rate and poor attachment ability of acetate oxidising SRB. Hence, the oxidation of acetate is the rate limiting step in the sulphidogenic ethanol oxidation by the thermophilic SRB.

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