Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from biotrickling filters used for ammonia removal at livestock facilities

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Recently several manufacturers of nitrifying biotrickling filters for ammonia (NH3) removal at animal houses have started to add a denitrification step to the installation, aiming to reduce the amount of discharge water by conversion of NH3 to nitrogen gas (N2). The aim of this research was to quantify the possible formation of nitrous oxide (N2O), which is a potent greenhouse gas, in three of these farm-scale installations. Furthermore, the removal efficiency of NH3 and odor was determined. All installations were successful in reducing the amount of discharge water. The average NH3 removal efficiency for the three locations was 85, 71 and 86%, respectively. However, a significant part of the NH3 removed from the inlet air was not converted to N2 but to N2O, which is a potent greenhouse gas. The part of the inlet NH3-N that was converted to N2O-N amounted to 17, 66 and 24%, respectively. The high N2O production might have been caused by a too low scarcity of biodegradable carbon/N ratio for complete denitrification. The average odor removal efficiency was 21, 32 and 48%, respectively. Further research is necessary to explore how process conditions can be adjusted and controlled in order to reduce the production and emission of N2O from these types of systems.

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