Novel anaerobic sewage treatment and bioenergy production

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Resource or Project Abstract

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a biological process of waste and wastewater treatment, which converts organic matter to biogas (a usable fuel) and a renewable energy source. The process occurs in bioreactors, where the microbes that carry out the process are retained as biofilms. Anaerobic digestion is an established, sustainable waste-treatment technology for residues from various sources, including industrial processes and agriculture. In addition to the generation of renewable energy, AD also has advantages over the conventional aerobic treatment approach, including lower capital and operating costs. To date, AD has not been applied for direct treatment of municipal wastewaters or domestic sewage in regions with a temperate climate, due mainly to concerns regarding the stability and efficiency of low-temperature AD. Recent advances in AD research and technology, however, have enabled high-rate, low-temperature anaerobic digestion (LTAD) as a feasible and potentially highly efficient approach. If proven feasible, an innovative municipal wastewater treatment approach, with AD as the core technology, could realise a major commercial and technological opportunity and facilitate future sustainable development in Ireland. This 36-month project evaluated, at laboratory scale and using state-of-the-art methodologies, the applicability and underlying microbiology of LTAD for municipal wastewater treatment under Irish conditions.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Dermot Hughes
National University of Ireland Galway

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Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_64_Hughes_anaerobic-sewage_prn.pdf  (4.53 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_64_Hughes_anaerobic-sewage_web.pdf  (2.14 Mb)

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Author(s)Hughes, D.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationNovel anaerobic sewage treatment and bioenergy production
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier7ac4044c-619e-102f-8c70-b53a025bc1b8
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2023-12-02

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Hughes, D.   "Novel anaerobic sewage treatment and bioenergy production". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2023-12-02)


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SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsHigh-rate Anaerobic Digestion as a Core Technology
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2005-ET-MS-29-M3
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeEnvironmental Technologies
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Saturday 1st January 2005 (01-01-2005)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Saturday 1st January 2005 (01-01-2005)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Saturday 1st October 2011 (01-10-2011)
Published on SAFERWednesday 16th November 2011 (16-11-2011)
Date of Last EditWednesday 16th November 2011 at 12:19:31 (16-11-2011)
Datasets or Files Updated On Wednesday 16th November 2011 at 12:19:31 (16-11-2011)

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Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
This project was based on the design and operation of laboratory-scale anaerobic treatment systems. The bioreactors (3.5 l) were inoculated with anaerobic sludge granules obtained from a full-scale, internal circulation (IC) bioreactor at Carberry Milk Products (Ballineen, Co. Cork, Ireland). A hybrid bioreactor configuration with biomass immobilised both as granular biofilms and on media as fixed-films was chosen for the trials. The bioreactors were employed to treat synthetic sewage and raw and primary settled sewage from the Mutton Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in Galway city in three long-term trials, ranging from 150-300 days in duration.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
This project was justified based on sound preliminary Irish and international research. Salient facts include: 1 Anaerobic digestion wastewater treatment technology is a well-established and highly successful industrial wastewater treatment (Lettinga, 1995; Lettinga et al., 2001; Grommen and Verstraete, 2002; McHugh et al., 2003a). 2 Anaerobic digestion has been implemented successfully for treating municipal wastewaters in sub-tropical regions (average temperature >20°C) for several years, with very positive performance and stability data (Leitão et al., 2005 and references therein). 3 High-rate, low-temperature anaerobic treatment of a wide variety of wastewaters has been demonstrated at laboratory-scale, with similar efficiency and loading rates to mesophilic trials ( McHugh et al., 2003a, b, c; Collins et al., 2004, 2005; McKeown et al., 2009). In addition, preliminary trials with low-strength wastewaters comparable to municipal or low-strength industrial streams in terms of COD strength were very positive (Connaughton et al., 2005). 4 Anaerobic consortia enriched from reactor sludge are capable of mineralising key anaerobic substrates, such as acetate, propionate and butyrate at temperatures as low as 4°C efficiently (Enright et al., 2005); 5 It is possible to evaluate the long-term microbial community dynamics, activity and biofilm structure in anaerobic bioreactors, and this information underpins the design and successful operation of anaerobic bioreactors (McHugh et al., 2003b; Collins et al., 2003; McHugh et al., 2005b; McKeown et al., 2009).
Supplementary Information
In order to test the research hypothesis, a number of laboratory-scale bioreactor trials were carried out, the results of which form the basis for this report. Section 2 describes a comparative long-term trial where three laboratory-scale EGSB/AF hybrid bioreactors were used to treat a synthetic sewage at low (250 mg CCOD-1); medium (500 mg COD l-1) and high (750 mg COD l-1) concentrations at 37°C, 15°C and 10°C. Section 2 outlines both reactor performance and biomass characteristics underpinning performance. Section 3 describes the investigation of the performance of a novel bioreactor during a long-term trial treating synthetic sewage (500 mg COD l-1) at 12°C. Section 4 discusses the implementation of laboratory-scale LTAD for the treatment of raw and primary settled sewage from the Mutton Island treatment plant. Section 5 summarises the main conclusions arising from this work and recommends the next actions with respect to the implementation of low-temperature anaerobic sewage treatment.

Dermot Hughes, Anne Marie Enright, Thérèse Mahony, Vincent O?Flaherty
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