This study reports a lab-scale evaluation of a new biological nitrogen removal process for saline sewage treatment, namely a SANI process (Sulfate reduction, Autotrophic denitrification and Nitrification Integrated process). The experimental system consisted of an up-flow anaerobic bed for sulfate reduction, an anoxic filter for autotrophic denitrification using dissolved sulfide produced in the up-flow anaerobic bed and an aerobic filter for nitrification. The system successfully operated for more than 180 days with an overall organic carbon removal efficiency of 95%, in which, 82% removal was contributed by the up-flow anaerobic bed operating at a HRT of 6 h, and 13% removal by the anoxic filter. An average COD removed /sulfate removed ratio was found to be 0.76 gCOD/gSO4 or 2.28 COD/gSO4-S further confirming that the organic removal was mainly achieved by the sulfate reduction. In terms of nitrogen removal efficiency, the SANI system was found sensitive to the recirculation rate between the anoxic filter and the aerobic filter. A recirculation rate of 3Q was found to be optimal for achieving 74% of the total nitrogen removal. It was confirmed that the autotrophic denitrification was a major contributor to the total nitrogen removal in the SANI system. Sulfur balance analysis indicated that both the accumulation of elementary sulfur in the biomass and the loss of hydrogen sulfide were trivial. During the entire operation period (330 days to date), no sludge was wasted from any reactors in this system. This was further confirmed by the biomass balance simulation results that low biomass yields of sulfate reducing bacteria, autotrophic denitrifiers and nitrifiers contribute to the zero excess sludge discharge.

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