Effect of temperature and carbon to nitrogen ratio on the performance of an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor treating sugarcane molasses
The sugar industry contributes to the development of the economy in many countries, including South Africa. The wastewater generated by this industry has a high pollution load, and therefore requires treatment before discharge to the environment. The primary aims of this study were to determine the performance of an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor treating sugarcane molasses and to develop an empirical model to predict the behaviour of the UASB in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal and biogas production. A UASB (46 L working volume) was inoculated with granular sludge from the brewery industry and was used to investigate the treatment of synthetic sugar industry wastewater with an average COD of 4101 mg/L. The experiments were designed using Design-Expert® Software Version 10. The analysis of variance for the models and the optimisation of reactor temperature and feed carbon to nitrogen (C/N ratio) were carried out using response surface methodology. The UASB was operated at constant hydraulic retention time and organic loading rate of 2.04 days and 2.01 kg/m3.d, respectively. A start-up period of 22 days was required to reach steady-state. The developed empirical models for total COD removal efficiency and biogas production rate were found to be statistically significant with Prob > F values of 0.0747 and 0.0495 and the determination coefficients (R2) were found to be 0.80 and 0.65, respectively. The optimal conditions were found to be at a temperature of 38oC and C/N ratio of 22 mgTOC/mgTN. The corresponding removal efficiencies in terms of total COD, five day biological oxygen demand, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and sulphate was 77.7, 85.9, 99.2, 44.4 and 57.2%, respectively. Biogas was produced at a rate of 0.832 L/L.d with a methane, carbon dioxide and molecular oxygen content of 65.2, 32.8 and 0.6%. Results suggest that UASBs may offer a feasible option for reducing the organic strength of sugar industry wastewater, while simultaneously generating methane-rich biogas.