Anaerobic degradation of carbon capture reclaimer MEA waste
The anaerobic biodegradation of reclaimer MEA (monoethanolamine) waste (MEAw) with easily degradable co-substrates was investigated in a laboratory-scale bioreactor at room temperature during a 160 d experimental run. The reactor that was constructed with three phases to facilitate attached biofilm and suspended biomass retention for degradation of the complex and challenging MEAw performed well. A feed strategy of step-wise increasing organic loading rate (OLR) by either increasing feed MEAw concentration or the hydraulic loading rate was applied. The system performance was evaluated by chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiency, methane yield, MEA removal, and the accumulation of ammonia and volatile fatty acid (VFA). The total COD removal efficiency initially was 93% when the feed was mainly easily degradable co-substrate. The total removal dropped to 75% at the end when MEAw constituted 60% of the feed COD. Ion chromatography results show that the MEA and some unidentified feed chemicals were almost completely consumed. The main products of MEAw degradation were ammonia, VFAs and biogas. The ammonia nitrogen concentration reached about 2.0 g/L, which may explain the observed inhibition of acetoclastic methanogenesis leading to acetate accumulation. Methane accounted for up to 80% of the biogas generated. The highest methane yield was 0.34 L/g-COD while the yield was 0.16 L/g-COD at the highest load. This study shows that more than 80% reclaimer MEAw COD degradation with a co-substrate can be maintained in a hybrid anaerobic bioreactor operated in a wide loading range.