THIOPAQ technology developed and marketed by PAQUES Bio Systems in Balk, Netherlands, has been successfully used at commercial scale at the Budelco zinc refinery in the Netherlands for the treatment of contaminated groundwater since 1992. In essence, THIOPAQ technology consists of two biological process steps in series: sulfate reduction to hydrogen sulfide (anaerobic) and sulfide oxidation to elemental sulfur (aerobic). The biogenic sulfide produced can be employed for the chemical precipitation of metals in solution either inside the anaerobic reactor or in a separate vessel. Since the solubilities of most metal sulfides are much lower than of their respective hydroxides, considerably lower effluent metal concentrations can be achieved with THIOPAQ systems than in neutralization processes which immobilize metals predominantly by hydrolytic precipitation.
In recent years, PAQUES has made significant advances in the design and operation of aerobic and anaerobic bioreactors for metal-sulfur systems. Moreover, the company has increased its technology portfolio to allow the development of more process oriented applications of THIOPAQ technology. A new PAQUES designed plant at Budelco treating sulfatecontaining proceswaters will be started up in 1999. The sulfate reduction is accomplished in a 500 m3 reactor in which hydrogen is used as electron donor. The endproduct, ZnS, is used for Zn and H2SO4 production.