Anaerobic-aerobic sequential treatment: Temperature optimization and cost implications
Sophia Ghanimeh, Charbel Abou Khalil, Domenica Mosca Angelucci, and M. Concetta Tomei


Traditionally, aeration units, used as a polishing stage after anaerobic digestion (AD) of wastes, are operated at ambient temperature. Yet, when effluent quality is the main design criterion, raising the temperature of the aeration stage can be justified by improved removal efficiencies. In this study, an anaerobic-aerobic sequential system (AASS) was operated to co-digest raw wastewater and food waste. The aerobic compartment was tested under psychrophilic and mesophilic temperatures. At the design loading rate of 2 gVS L−1 d−1, the anaerobic digester achieved removal efficiencies of 85 ± 2% of volatile solids (VS), 84 ± 3% of total chemical oxygen demand (CODT) and a biogas yield of 1,035 ± 30 mL gVSfed −1 (50% methane). The aerobic reactor achieved additional removal of 8% CODT and 7 % VS. By raising the temperature of the aerobic reactor to the mesophilic range, COD and solids concentrations of the effluent dropped to approximately half their values. This was accompanied by an increase in nitrification (from 68% to 91%) and denitrification (from 10% to 16%). The energy analysis showed that total energy consumption slightly increases (from 0.45 to 0.49 kWh kgCODfed −1) by raising the temperature of the aerobic reactor to mesophilic range. A preliminary evaluation of the sludge disposal cost, revealed a saving increase of 5–6% under mesophilic operation with respect to psychrophilic conditions.
Implications: In order to cope with the globally increasing constraints on the disposal of urban wastes, efficient post-processing of effluents becomes a crucial requirement for the anaerobic digestion industry. In this context, the submitted manuscript shows that the quality of the effluent, of an anaerobic digester, treating food waste with raw wastewater, can be substantially improved by optimizing the aerobic polishing stage. Raising the temperature of the aerobic reactor to the mesophilic range resulted in a drop of solids and COD concentrations to approximately half their values. Equally important, the implications on operational costs were found to be favorable, compared to traditional psychrophilic aerobic post-treatment, when taking into consideration indirect sludge treatment costs and energy selling revenues.

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