oa Water SA - Evaluation of acidogenic sludge from anaerobic reactors running at low solids retention times to reduce sludge generation and enhance biogas production

Volume 45 Number 4
  • ISSN : 0378-4738
  • E-ISSN: 1816-7950



Sludges generated in the biological processing of sewage are complex mixtures, the constituents of which pose risks to public health and the environment. Anaerobic digestion is considered the most sustainable option for treating sludge because it offers the possibility of generating biogas. The aim of this study was to compare the quantities, properties, biodegradabilities and biochemical methane potentials (BMP) of primary sludge (PS) generated by a primary decanter with acidogenic sludges produced by upflow anaerobic (UA) reactors operating at solids retention times (SRTs) of 2, 4, 6 and 8 days (Samples S2, S4, S6 and S8, respectively). Sludges from both pre-treatments were submitted to alkaline solubilization in order to determine the efficiency of the process in disrupting extracellular complexes. Based on the levels of total solids (TS) present, the primary decanter was found to generate higher quantities of excess sludge (yield of 3.1 gTS∙d−1) than UA reactors operating at low SRTs (yields in the range 1.69 to 0.64 gTS∙d−1). The concentrations of dissolved materials in PS and Samples S2 and S8 were considerably higher after alkaline solubilization, with respective increases of 8, 14 and 28-fold in dissolved organic carbon, 12, 20 and 40-fold in chemical oxygen demand, 25, 31 and 59-fold in proteins, and 17, 21 and 63-fold in carbohydrates. In addition, the BMP value for S8 was some 13% higher than that recorded for PS while the kinetic constant for gas production by S8 was 1.8-fold greater than that of PS. It is concluded that a pre-treatment combining anaerobic digestion at low SRT and alkaline solubilisation would lead to improved performance in subsequent stages of anaerobic digestion and, consequently, increased efficiency in biogas production.

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