Using data from 6 full-scale municipal membrane bioreactors (MBR) in Germany the hydraulic capacity utilisation and specific energy consumption were studied and their connexion shown. The average hydraulic capacity utilisation lies between 14% and 45%. These low values are justified by the necessity to deal with intense rain events and cater for future flow increases. However, this low hydraulic capacity utilisation leads to high specific energy consumption. The optimisation of MBR operation requires a better utilisation of MBR hydraulic capacity, particularly under consideration of the energy-intensive membrane aeration. A first approach to respond to large influent flow fluctuations consists in adjusting the number of operating modules. This is practised by most MBR operators but so far mostly with variable flux and constant membrane aeration. A second approach is the real-time adjustment of membrane aeration in line with flux variations. This adjustment is not permitted under current manufacturers’ warranty conditions. A further opportunity is a discontinuous operation, in which filtration takes place over short periods at high flux and energy for membrane aeration is saved during filtration pauses. The integration of a buffer volume is thereby indispensable. Overall a modular design with small units, which can be activated/ inactivated according to the influent flow and always operate under optimum conditions, enables a better utilisation of MBR hydraulic capacity and forms a solid base to reduce MBR energy demand.
Keywords: advanced municipal wastewater treatment, capacity utilisation, energy optimisation, Membrane Bioreactor (MBR)