- Research article
- Open Access
Investigation on up-flow anaerobic sludge fixed film (UASFF) reactor for treating low-strength bilge water of Caspian Sea ships
© Emadian et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015
- Received: 9 July 2014
- Accepted: 9 March 2015
- Published: 20 March 2015
In order to meet the International Maritime Organization (IMO) objectives, the main purpose of this study was using the cheap and practical wastewater treatment system for low-strength bilge water of Caspian Sea ships; therefore, the low-strength bilge water of the Caspian Sea ships has been treated by up-flow anaerobic sludge fixed film (UASFF) reactor at the ambient temperature.
The reactor operated at two hydraulic retention times (HRTs) of 10 h and 8 h. The organic loading rates (OLR) ranged (0.12-0.6) g chemical oxygen demand (COD)/l.day. At the beginning of the experimental procedure, the sludge was immobilized on the surface of the support materials. After 10 days of batch feeding of the reactor with the wastewater as an acclimation period (with COD removal of 59%), the reactor operated continuously. At the end of the experiment, with the HRT of 8 h and OLR of 0.6 g COD/l.day, the COD and total suspended solid (TSS) removal efficiencies reached the amounts of 75% and 99%, respectively. In addition to the good features of the reactor in removing COD and TSS, the effluent oil concentration was significantly lower than the standard value (15 ppm) which has been laid down for the discharge of the bilge water from ships by the IMO.
The obtained data demonstrated that UASFF reactor is an appropriate system for treatment of a low-strength bilge water.
- Anaerobic treatment
- UASFF reactor
- Oil content
Three kinds of wastewater exist which are produced on ships: black water, grey water and bilge water. Bilge water is the mixture of water, oily fluids, lubricants, cleaning fluids and other similar wastes that accumulate in the lowest part of a ship. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations necessitate that any oil and oil residue discharged in wastewater streams must contain less than 15 mg/l of oil . The common technology is used in ships for treating bilge water is oil water separator (OWS) using the buoyancy difference of oil and water for separation. Cleaning agents in bilge water can create an emulsion of oil in water. When emulsification takes place, buoyancy difference of oil and water is too small to be treated properly via the existing OWS technology.
Other techniques have been studied in order to treat bilge water including membrane technology [2,3], electrocoagulation [4,5], UF/photocatalytic oxidation . Some disadvantages were reported associated with the application of membrane in treatment of bilge water such as: their relatively high cost of production because of the expensive raw materials, fouling which has a number of negative effects such as the reduction in membrane flux, additional capital and maintenance cost due to membrane replacement and regeneration [2,7]. Karakulski et al. reported a promising usage of laboratory-scale ultrafiltration pilot plant with tubular membranes for the treatment of bilge water. However, the use of additional photocatalytic oxidation stage was necessary to eliminate the residual oil . Rincon et al. concluded that the electrocoagulation process was an effective method in destabilization of oil in water emulsions and removing of heavy metals. However, the electricity consumption and the use of additional flotation method should be considered for improving the treatment efficiency .
Anaerobic treatment is a well-established technology for treatment of wastes and wastewaters because it is technologically simple for low energy consumption and it is an efficient, economical and environmentally-friendly method. The final product of anaerobic digestion is biogas which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. These produced components can be applied for heating and upgrading natural gas quality or co-generation . One of the most notable developments in anaerobic treatment process technology is the up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor. The UASB reactor has some positive features, such as short hydraulic retention time that allows high organic loadings. Furthermore, it has a low energy demand and area requirement [9,10]. A major problem of UASB reactor is the long period (several months) required for the formation of granule sludge in the reactor . Although formation of granule in UASB reactors has some advantages, successful treatment of wastewaters with flocculent sludge UASB reactors have been reported [12,13]. The up-flow anaerobic sludge fixed film (UASFF) reactor configuration has combined the advantages of both UASB and Up-flow anaerobic fixed film (UAFF) reactors. This kind of reactor is efficient in the treatment of dilute to high strength wastewaters at low to high Organic Loading Rates [14,15]. The packing medium in the hybrid reactor plays an important role in giving a better performance to the UASB reactor such as increasing solids retention by dampening short circuiting, improving gas/liquid/solid separation, and providing surface for biomass attachment.
Bilge water is classified as the low strength group of wastewater . Although anaerobic process is used for the treatment of medium and high strength wastewaters, it has already been applied successfully for a number of waste streams including low strength wastewaters [16-18].
In this study, the efficiency of UASFF reactor (on the basis of COD, TSS, oil removal and biogas production) has been studied in treatment of low-strength bilge water under different low organic loading rates at the ambient temperature.
characteristics of pre-settled bilge water; TN and TP were measured in COD = 50 mg/l
8 – 9
20 – 200
800 – 2400
220 – 1760
Inoculum (seed sludge)
The reactor was seeded with a mixture of activated sludge from the aerobic wastewater treatment of the Mazandaran pulp and paper industry and a non-granular sludge obtained from an up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor operating with cheese whey wastewater from the Gela food industry of Amol, Mazandaran, Iran. The TSS of the mixture was 13 g/l. The non-granular sludge was methanogenically active as the biogas bubbles were apparently observed stripping from the sample surface which was collected in a closed bottle.
Several monitoring parameters were evaluated during the entire operation, including COD, TSS and oil concentrations, as well as pH, temperature and biogas production volume rate. For COD analysis, HACH’s Method 8000, a combination of reactor digestion method and colorimetric method, was used . This method is equivalent to standard method 5220D: closed reflux, colorimetric method . Analytical determination of TSS was carried out in agreement with the standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater . Analysis of oil was determined according to USEPA Method 1664, N-Hexane gravimetric method. Temperature and pH were measured using a pH/temperature probe (HANNA, PH212, Germany) with automatic temperature compensation. The method used in pH measurement was generally in compliance with standard method 4500B . Biogas was collected by water displacement and the volume was read from a calibrated gas collection cylinder.
Start-up and operation scheme
Start-up period usually takes a long time. In order to decrease this time, the immobilization of biomass on the support material was done. So, the mentioned mixture of sludge was used by means of a technique described by Zaiat et al. . The support material in combination with the sludge was stored in 1.5 l closed bottle and homogenized for the period of a week by using a shaker so as to secure steadier immobilization of bio-particles in the supporting material. It is noticeable that this initial immobilization of biomass in the support materials has never been done by the other authors. After this stage, the packing material was filled in its place in the UASFF reactor.
The reactor was inoculated with 500 ml of the same sludge mixture. In order to acclimatize the sludge with bilge water, the reactor was daily batch feed with the bilge water (50 mg/l) for 10 days. After each feed, the liquid content of the reactor was continuously circulated for 1 day (until the next feed). The acclimation period permitted oxygen level decrease to prevent inhibition of anaerobic bacteria as well as the bacteria population to adjust with the feed wastewater. The TSS concentration of the sludge after the 10-day batch-fed period was 16.5 g/l. A COD removal of about 59% was achieved at the end of this acclimation period.
During the experiment, COD reduction, pH and biogas production were monitored daily. The TSS reduction was usually measured every other day. Also oil reduction was checked 2 times throughout the experiment. The first check was after the end of the start-up period and the second check was after the completion of the whole experiment.
COD removal efficiency
Biogas production rate
The overall performance of the reactor during the startup was satisfactory. It is known that the selection of seed material plays a crucial role in minimizing the time required for start-up duration . In addition, it is clearly understood that the initial immobilization of microorganisms on the surface of the support materials had a key role in progressing the start-up procedure.
Later operation stage
After a 49-days startup period, the reactor was operated at HRTs of 10 h and 8 h with three different influent COD concentrations (from 100 mg/l to 200 mg/l) to evaluate the effect of low organic loadings on the reactor performance.
COD and TSS removal efficiencies
Biogas production rate
The TSS concentration of the sludge in the reactor increased from 16.5 g/l at the beginning of the start-up to 67 g/l at the end of the study. This sludge production in the reactor may be attributed to (1) flocculation and entrapment of the non-biodegradable influent TSS, forming the inert sludge mass fraction and (2) the biological sludge mass that is generated as a result of anaerobic conversion in the hybrid reactor but because of the mentioned reasons in COD and TSS removal section, the entrapment of the suspended solids in the sludge seems to have more effect on increasing the TSS content of the reactor sludge. So, the sludge acted as a filter for removing the suspended solids from the wastewater . Therefore, the UASB reactor had a noticeable effect on removing the TSS content of the wastewater [34-36]. At the end of this study, a flocculent sludge was observed without any granule formation in it. As the other authors reported, low strength wastewater can lead to substrate transfer limitation and cause inhibition of granulation or can make it difficult to maintain granules [37,38].
In this study, anaerobic treatment of dilute bilge water was performed by using UASFF reactor at ambient temperature. After a good resulted immobilization of sludge in the support materials and start-up period, the COD and TSS removal efficiencies reached the amounts of 75% and 99% at the end of the operation, respectively. The results showed that the sludge blanket acted as a filter for removing the suspended solids from the wastewater and the major proportion of COD removal was due to the soluble and not suspended COD. The biogas production rate reached an amount of 0.93 l/day at the end of the experiment and effluent oil concentration is remarkably below the standard amount which has been set by the IMO (15 ppm). The good performance of the bioreactor on appearance of the wastewater can be considered as another advantage of this type of the UASFF reactor. The immobilization of the biomass in the support materials had an important role in reducing the influent COD because they created a good media for methanogenic bacteria on their surface. According to the obtained results, it can be concluded that the UASFF reactor is a very promising option for the treatment of the low-strength bilge water, produced from the ships in Caspian Sea, at the ambient temperatures for implementation on the ships in a large scale.
The authors wish to acknowledge Biofuel & Renewable Energy Research Center, Noshirvani University of Technology (Babol, Iran) for the facilities provided to accomplish the present research.
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