The use of a new three stages MBR process with a first methanogenic UASB stage, a second stage with aerobic biofilm growing on small carrier elements maintained in suspension and third stage with membrane filtration module is presented. The objective of the first methanogenic chamber is to diminish COD of the raw wastewater, producing a biogas rich in methane, and decrease the sludge production. In the second stage, the remaining soluble biodegradable COD is oxidized by heterotrophs. In the third stage, the membrane modules could be operated at higher fluxes than those reported for AnMBR systems, and similar to those obtained in aerobic MBRs. In this sense, the concept of these three stages MBR is to join the advantages of the methanogenic and aerobic membrane bioreactor processes, by reducing energy requirements for aeration, producing biogas with high methane percentage and a permeate with very low COD content. A synthetic wastewater was fed to the three stages MBR. COD in the influent was between 200 and 1,200 mg/L, ammonium ranged from 10 to 35 mg/L and phosphorous concentration was 8 mg/L. OLR in-between 1 and 3 kg COD/(m3 d) and a HRT of 13–21 h were applied. Temperature was between 17.5 and 23.2 °C. During the whole operating period the COD removal efficiencies were in the range of 90 and 96% of which in between 40 and 80% was removed in the first methanogenic chamber. Biogas production with methane content between 75 and 80% was observed. With regard to membrane operation, average permeabilities around 150 L/(m2 h bar) were achieved, operating with fluxes of 11–15 L/(m2 h).
Keywords: anaerobic, biogas production, membrane bioreactor, membrane fouling