Effect of pH level and acid type on total ammoniacal nitrogen (TAN) retention and fouling of reverse osmosis membranes processing swine wastewater

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Wastewaters fed to reverse osmosis (RO) membranes sometimes need to be acidified to prevent inorganic fouling and increase total ammoniacal nitrogen (TAN) retention. In this project, the effect of pH level (6.5–7.1) and acid type (HCl vs. H2SO4) on membrane fouling and cleaning as well as permeate flux and quality during the processing of swine wastewater with a spiral-wound RO membrane was investigated. The use of H2SO4 to lower pH produced slightly higher permeate fluxes than HCl and there was no indication of sulfate precipitates on the membrane. Membrane fouling intensity and flux recovery upon cleaning were not affected by pH level or acid type. Lowering swine wastewater pH from 7.1 to 6.5 with HCl reduced TAN concentration in permeate from 142 to 59 mg/L. Using H2SO4 to lower pH to 6.5 further decreased TAN concentration to 39 mg/L. At pH 6.5 with both acid types, the concentration of unionized NH3 in the permeate was below the Canadian guideline of 0.019 mg/L for the release of wastewater to an aquatic environment. The use of H2SO4 would be recommended with swine wastewater, because of lower cost and volumetric input required to lower pH, as well as higher permeate quality and flux.

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