Oxygen transfer in biological wastewater treatment processes with high sludge concentration, such as membrane bioreactor (MBR), is an important issue. The variation of α-factor versus mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentration was investigated in a full scale MBR plant under process conditions, using mass balances. Exhaustive data from the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) and from additional online sensors (COD, DO, MLSS) were used to calculate the daily oxygen consumption (OC) using a non-steady state mass balance for COD and total N on a 24-h basis. To close the oxygen balance, OC has to match the total oxygen transfer rate (OTRtot) of the system, which is provided by fine bubble (FB) diffusers in the aeration tank and coarse bubbles (CB) in separate membrane tanks. First assessing OTRCB, then closing the balance OC=OTRtot allowed to calculate OTRFB and to fit an exponential relationship between OTRFB and MLSS. A comparison of the α-factor obtained by this balance method and by direct measurements with the off-gas method on the same plant is presented and discussed.
Keywords: alpha factor, membrane bioreactor, mixed liquor concentration, oxygen transfer