Treatment of corn ethanol distillery wastewater using two-stage anaerobic digestion

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

In this study the mesophilic two-stage anaerobic digestion (AD) of corn bioethanol distillery wastewater is investigated in laboratory-scale reactors. Two-stage AD technology separates the different sub-processes of the AD in two distinct reactors, enabling the use of optimal conditions for the different microbial consortia involved in the different process phases, and thus allowing for higher applicable organic loading rates (OLRs), shorter hydraulic retention times (HRTs) and better conversion rates of the organic matter, as well as higher methane content of the produced biogas. In our experiments the reactors have been operated in semi-continuous phase-separated mode. A specific methane production of 1,092 mL/(L·d) has been reached at an OLR of 6.5 g TCOD/(L·d) (TCOD: total chemical oxygen demand) and a total HRT of 21 days (5.7 days in the first-stage, and 15.3 days in the second-stage reactor). Nonetheless the methane concentration in the second-stage reactor was very high (78.9%); the two-stage AD outperformed the reference single-stage AD (conducted at the same reactor loading rate and retention time) by only a small margin in terms of volumetric methane production rate. This makes questionable whether the higher methane content of the biogas counterbalances the added complexity of the two-stage digestion.

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