The aim of this work was to evaluate the performance of a pilot-scale upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor during the treatment of cereal-processing industry wastewater under low-temperature conditions (17 °C) for more than 300 days. The applied organic loading rate (OLRappl) was gradually increased from 4 to 6 and 8 kg CODsol/m3d by increasing the influent soluble chemical oxygen demand (CODsol), while keeping the hydraulic retention time constant (5.2 h). The removal efficiency was high (82 to 92%) and slightly decreased after increasing the influent CODsol and the OLRappl. The highest removed organic loading rate (OLRrem) was reached when the UASB reactor was operated at 8 kg CODsol/m3d and it was two times higher than that obtained for an OLRappl of 4 kg CODsol/m3d. Some disturbances were observed during the experimentation. The formation of biogas pockets in the sludge bed significantly complicated the biogas production quantification, but did not affect the reactor performance. The volatile fatty acids in the effluent were low, but increased as the OLRappl increased, which caused an increment of the effluent CODsol. Anaerobic treatment at low temperature was a good option for the biological pre-treatment of cereal processing industry wastewater.
Keywords: biogas production, industrial wastewater, low temperature, organic loading rate, UASB