Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075

Aerobic moving bed biofilm reactor treating thermomechanical
pulping whitewater under thermophilic conditions
Sigrun J. Jahrena,*, Jukka A. Rintalab, Hallvard Ødegaarda
a

Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology,
N-7034 Trondheim, Norway
b
Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyvaskyl
a,
a,
.
. P.O. Box 35, FIN-40351 Jyvaskyl
.
. Finland
Received 20 April 1999; received in revised form 17 April 2001; accepted 15 June 2001

Abstract
The continuously operated laboratory scale Kaldnes moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) was used for thermophilic
(551C) aerobic treatment of TMP whitewater. In the MBBR, the biomass is grown on carrier elements that move along
with the water in the reactor. Inoculation with mesophilic activated sludge gave 60–65% SCOD removal from the first
day onwards. During the 107 days of experiment, the 60–65% SCOD removals were achieved at organic loading rates
of 2.5–3.5 kg SCOD m3 d1, the highest loading rates applied during the run and HRT of 13–22 h. Carbohydrates,
which contributed to 50–60% of the influent SCOD, were removed by 90–95%, while less than 15% of the lignin-like
material (30–35% of SCODin) was removed. The sludge yield was 0.23 g VSS g SCOD1
removed. The results show that
the aerobic biofilm process can be successfully operated under thermophilic conditions. r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Keywords: Aerobic; Biofilm; Moving bed biofilm reactor; Thermophilic; Thermomechanical pulping whitewater

1. Introduction
Thermomechanical pulp (TMP) is produced by
refining wood chips at temperatures above 1001C. The
yield of the TMP process is 93–97% based on dry wood
[1] implying that 30–70 kg ton1 is lost to the water. The
organic compounds in TMP whitewater consist of lignin
(40%), carbohydrates (40%) and extractives (20%) [2].
Thermomechanical pulping whitewater is warm, normally with temperatures between 501C and 801C, with a
COD of 1000–5600 mg L1 [3].
Process water treatment at high temperature would
omit cooling of the process water and allow the treated
water to be reused in the processes at the mill without
heating. Thus, investments in cooling facilities such as
cooling towers may be minimised or even avoided.
Higher maintenance energy requirements and higher
*Corresponding author. Present address: 3MINUTES Media
AS, Nygaard, Rute 784, 2050 Jessheim, Norway.
E-mail address: sjahren@3minutesmedia.com (S.J. Jahren).

microbial decay coefficients for thermophiles indicate
that the amount of excess sludge will be smaller
for thermophilic than for mesophilic treatment processes
[4–6].
Thermophilic aerobic treatment of pulp and paper
mill wastewaters at 50–551C has been found to be
comparable with mesophilic treatment in terms of BOD
and COD removal in laboratory scale experiments at
loading rates up to 8.4 kg COD m3 d1 [7–10]. Aerobic
post-treatment has been successfully applied in laboratory-scale for anaerobically pre-treated TMP whitewater
at thermophilic conditions (551C) [11], while previous
thermophilic aerobic studies on recirculated newsprint
with suspended growth systems in laboratory-scale gave
poor organic removal efficiencies [12]. Sludge from the
treatment process operated at 50–531C showed better
settling characteristics compared to lower temperatures
[8,10]. This could be explained by decreased liquid
viscosity at high temperatures [4]. Other plants, however, experienced lower settling rates and lower BOD
removal rates at 41–501C than at 22–351C [13,14]. To

0043-1354/02/$ -see front matter r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 0 4 3 - 1 3 5 4 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 3 1 1 - 6

16]. New feed was prepared 2–7 times a week. or better than.7 (0. The reactor was filled with 58% Kaldnes carrier elements (Fig. density 0. / Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075 our knowledge.5 0.7 (1.6 0.9 0. nitrogen (10 mg L1 N as NH4Cl) and phosphorus (2 mg L1 P as KH2PO4) were added to the whitewater for nutrition. however.0 by adding HCl. Before using it as feed. TMP whitewater The TMP whitewater was obtained from a Finnish pulp and paper mill using spruce as the raw material.22 0. 1.dev.8 4.5 mg L1 at 551C).18 28 24 2500 2200 850 1300 800 9. The feed was heated in the inlet Table 1 Characteristics of the TMP whitewater from the mill Introduced (experimental day) 1 22 49 71 Average (Std.2) . Materials and methods 2.23 (0. The objective of this study was to evaluate in laboratory-scale the feasibility of the Kaldnes aerobic MBBR for the treatment of TMP whitewater under thermophilic conditions. 2. Reactor A laboratory scale plexiglas reactor with a total liquid volume of 8. The reactor was kept in a temperature-controlled waterbath at 551C. that at mesophilic conditions. The rate of oxygen transfer at high temperatures should therefore be expected to be as good as.02) 0. The diffusivity coefficient for oxygen.22 0. Sodium bicarbonate (1–1.25 0. 2. The bulk carrier volume relative to reactor volume is 40–70%.8 4. while the applications for other industrial wastewaters are rare.8e–5 cm2 s1 at 351C versus 4. The movement in the reactor is caused by aeration in an aerobic reactor and by a mechanical mixer in an anaerobic or anoxic reactor.1068 S.1) 1.4 1. Four batches of whitewater with characteristics as shown in Table 1 were obtained during the period. Within 3–5 h of collecting the whitewater from the mill it was cooled down to 41C until it was used for feed preparation.17 (0. Jahren et al. The Kaldnes moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) is a completely mixed continuously operated biofilm reactor where the biomass is grown on small carrier elements that move along with the water in the reactor [15.16].55 L was used in the study. Saturation values for oxygen in water decrease when the temperature increases (6. The feed was stored at 41C. The carriers have a potential growth area for a biofilm of about 490 m2 m3 at 70% filling.7 (0.J.5 g L1) was added to provide buffer capacity and pH was adjusted to 7.55 L (in preparation for other experiments [18]).7 1. The MBBR has been successfully applied under aerobic and anoxic conditions for full-scale treatment of municipal and industrial wastewaters [15.5 4. The Kaldnes polyethylene carrier elements are shaped like small cylinders with a cross inside and longitudinal fins on the outside. occupying 11% of the reactor’s liquid volume. Experiments using the MBBR for the treatment of concentrated wastewaters under thermophilic anaerobic conditions have been successful as well [17]. The whitewater had temperatures of 70–801C at the mill.9 mg L1 at 351C versus 4. No sludge recycling is necessary for keeping the biomass per unit volume at a high level. removing Kaldnes carriers to maintain the same %-wise filling. aerobic thermophilic treatment is not applied in full scale for pulp and paper mill wastewaters.) pH TS (%) VS (%) SS (mg L1) VSS (mg L1) TCOD (mg L1) SCOD (mg L1) TOC (mg L1) TBOD7 (mg L1) SBOD7 (mg L1) Ntot (mg L1) Ptot (mg L1) 4.3e– 5 cm2 s1 at 551C.8 1. is significantly higher at elevated temperatures (2. Biofilm treatment plants are more compact than activated sludge plants and the treatment efficiencies are less dependent on the sludge separation characteristics.95 g cm3. On day 92.18 99 86 2800 2400 890 1200 1200 9.01) 105 (57) 94 (52) 2475 (287) 2175 (171) 775 (111) 1125 (150) 993 (164) 9.8 0.1.6 4.2) 0.21 0. diameter 10 mm and height 7 mm) [15.16]. calculated with Wilke–Chang equation).16 136 120 2500 2100 680 1000 980 8.2.16 158 144 2100 2000 680 1000 990 11 1. while the efficient growth area is calculated to be about 350 m2 m3 [16]. the reactor liquid volume was reduced to 3.

Attached biomass was removed mechanically by scraping it off the Kaldnes carriers before SS and VSS analyses. The lignin content was determined by ultraviolet absorbance at 280 nm [11]. 2.9 mg O2 mg1 of lignin.0–8. Unfiltered and filtered (GF/A) chemical oxygen demand (TCOD and SCOD) and biochemical oxygen demand (TBOD7 and SBOD7). The VSS/SS ratio of the inoculum was 0. .2 during the incubation. 2.71. volatile solids (VS). The Kaldnes moving bed biofilm carrier.3 L of reactor content and 0. Two batches of aerobic reactor feed.0 and it was adjusted to 7. 2. The glasses containing 1 L of reactor feed were covered by aluminium foil and kept under aeration in a waterbath at 551C. Batch experiments The activity of the reactor sludge (day 47 of the reactor run.3. By using Beer’s Law with an absortivity coefficient of 22. The initial pH was 7.S. Inoculum The reactor was inoculated with activated sludge (36 g VSS) from a mesophilic full-scale plant treating pulp 1069 and paper mill wastewater. Mixing and aeration were provided by pressurised air through ceramic aerators in the bottom of the reactor.J. 1.3 L g1 cm1 [21] and a chemical oxygen demand factor of 1. the COD of lignin-like substances could be estimated. Oxygen concentration in the reactor was kept at 2–3 mg O2 L1. total solids (TS).4.3 with HCl at each sampling occasion as the pH increased up to 8. Fig.7 L of feed diluted to different concentrations. at a loading rate of 2. total phosphorus (Ptot). Total organic carbon (TOC) was analysed with a Shimadzu TOC-5000 Total Organic Carbon analyser as described previously [20]. Stripping and evaporation were studied in aerobic batch experiments. It should be noted that even other components.0–7. The pH measurements (Orion pH-electrode) were conducted immediately after sampling. and one from filtered TMP whitewater. Jahren et al. [22]. The experimental set-up is shown in Fig. Analyses Fig. The batches were placed in a waterbath at 551C.5 kg COD m3 d1) and the aerobic degradability of TMP whitewater were studied in batch experiments. one made from unfiltered. Carbohydrates were determined by the colorimetric method described by Dubois et al. suspended solids (SS) and volatile suspended solids (VSS) were determined according to Standard Methods [19]. divided by the incubation time and the volume of the batch. Aeration was provided by aquarium aerators. were tested in the experiment. 2. total nitrogen (Ntot). absorb light at 280 nm. The batches were composed of 0. with glucose as standard. / Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075 tube in the waterbath before entering the reactor. 2. The reactor was covered in order to minimise stripping and evaporation. Experimental set-up. while dissolved oxygen (YSI O2-electrode) was measured from the reactor. like aromatic extractives. Sample volumes were around 10 mL each time.5. The activities were calculated as the difference between the SCOD measured at a given time and the initial SCOD.

J. 3). The removal of lignin-like material decreased from 15% at days 63– 65 to less than 5% at days 97–107 (data not shown). Fig.2 mg Psol g SCODremoved. HRT (a).1. 78% lignin-like material. while 9% was non-identified.0–8. was found to be 0. The effluent SCOD was composed of 12% carbohydrates.5– 2.8 kg SCOD m3 d1 after 70 days of operation (Fig. 3). .91 in the attached biomass. Then the total amount of biomass in the reactor was 1400–1900 mg VSS L1. Initially. 4. the loading rates were 1. increasing gradually to a maximum of 3. 5 and Table 2. Removal of SBOD was 74–76%.19 g VSS g 1 SCOD1 removed (0. Jahren et al. respectively (Table 3). The average process performance during days 49–107 is presented in Fig. The SCOD was removed by 60–65% throughout the whole experiment (Fig.1070 S. 3. and a non-identified SCOD of 10%.5–2 kg COD m3 d1. The nutrient consumption in the thermophilic aerobic process was 18.4 kg SCOD m3 d1 (Fig. About 70% of the influent nitrogen and 40–45% of the influent phosphorus came out with the effluent (Table 2). The average sludge yield over the 107 days of reactor operation. Fig.78 in the effluent and 0.0 for the influent and 3. The amount of attached biomass on the carriers increased gradually until it reached a steady state of 1200–1600 mg VSS L1 after 78–106 days of operation. The pH in the reactor was 8.25 g SS g SCODremoved). The effluent VSS was 220–600 mg L1 (Table 2).5 for unfiltered as well as filtered influents. 4) giving degradation rates of 1. 6). The SCOD/SBOD ratio was 2. loading rates and removal rates (b) in the thermophilic aerobic MBBR. Influent and effluent SCOD and TCOD (a) and % SCOD removals (b) in the thermophilic aerobic MBBR. 5.1 for the effluent. based on SS and VSS. N ¼ 9232) measured TCOD and SCOD and the identified SCOD calculated from the analysis of specific compound groups in the thermophilic aerobic MBBR during days 49–107. Between days 78 and 86 the sludge growth was determined. The average SCOD removal during the period was 62%.2 : 0. The COD : N : P ratio in the feed (after N and P addition) was 100 : 2. The yields of suspended biomass were 20% and 35% higher for this period than for the whole 107 days run. / Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075 3. based on suspended biomass determinations on the effluent. out of which 80–85% was found as attached growth (Fig. The average (standard deviation shown as error bars. Fig. The average VSS/SS ratios were 0. Reactor study The hydraulic retention time (HRT) was gradually decreased from an initial HRT of around 30 h to an HRT of around 14 h after 70 days of operation (Fig. 3). The influent SCOD consisted of 58% carbohydrates and 33% lignin-like material. The carbohydrates were reduced by 85–95%.5. Results 3.5 mg Nsol g 1 SCOD1 removed and 2.

The effects of stripping on the SCOD removal were also evaluated in the batch experiments. Short time measurements (30 min). Batch experiments (day 47.1–12. Biomass development in the thermophilic aerobic MBBR. / Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075 Table 2 Characteristics of the thermophilic aerobic Kaldnes moving bed biofilm reactor performance during days 49–107 Operational parameters ðN ¼ 29245Þ Average 1 a Flow (L d ) HRT (h) Loading rate (kg SCOD m3 d1) Removal rate (kg SCOD m3 d1) SCOD reduction (%) Std.8–15.6 Range 1. giving a clear water layer above the sludge bed.7 1. Discussion To our knowledge. The sludge could be observed to settle well over a period of some hours. this study is the first one to demonstrate the operation of an aerobic biofilm process .5 10.6 40–57 43–45 45–180 35–160 17 32 3 3 5 2 5 2 35 35 1240 772 380 247 12. based on an approximation of the biomass on the carriers (Fig.1071 S. The maximum specific activity for the reactor biomass was determined in batch tests with whitewater diluted to different concentrations (Fig.8–3.7 2.1 7 1 52 48 2000–2600 1800–2200 1000–1100 930–1100 10. with sludge volume index (SVI) in the range of 50– 90 mL g SS1(data not shown). Range N Average Std.5–10.3 4. Jahren et al.6 48 44 110 93 172 94 58 86 1. 4.2–26.5 0. Stripping at 551C caused less than 5% COD removal for unfiltered as well as for filtered samples during 18 h of testing. Evaporation during the batch experiment was about 5% of the volume.2–2. 7a).5 0.0 0. Batch experiments Fig.J. initial SCOD of whitewater 2300 mg L1) that were run for 42 h achieved a residual SCOD of around 750 mg L1 and 70–75% removal of the SCOD in the TMP whitewater when the inoculum was excluded. 6.5–12. The degradation rate was 15. 7b).1 7.9 g SCOD g VSS1 d1 as calculated for the first hour of incubation and 8.0 39–62 17–20 350–1500 290–1200 Before reactor volume reduction.5 47 19 588 471 258 87 36 12 0.0 7. After nutrients addition. Range 9 32 3 3 5 2 5 2 13 13 2222 2022 1067 1007 11.0–8.2. however. 3.3 52–71 Process water characteristics Influent 1 TCOD (mg L ) SCOD (mg L1) TBOD7 (mg L1) SBOD7 (mg L1) Ptot (mg L1)b Psol (mg L1)b Ntot (mg L1)b Nsol (mg L1)b SS (mg L1) VSS (mg L1) a b Effluent N Average Std.6 g SCOD g VSS1 d1 during 5 h of incubation.2 1.dev.dev. gave varying indications of separability.dev.7 61.6 13. 11.8 10.5 17.4 0.9 2.7 9 2 296 238 940–1900 570–930 350–420 240–260 11.8 1.4 7.

Fig. If the maximum loading rate had been reached.30(0. gave initial COD removals similar to those obtained after the sludge had been adapted to the temperature.SCOD (g VSS g SCOD1 removed) 0. In a mesophilic study with the same process treating integrated newsprint wastewater. Jahren et al.05) Average and std. a reduction in HRT from 15 to 4. the removal rate would not have increased with increasing loading rate. (b) The specific degradation rates calculated over 1 and 5 h. not reached within the loading rates used in this study. N ¼ 7: Fig. Removal rates versus loading rates in the thermophilic aerobic MBBR. It is known [23] that thermotolerant as well as facultative thermophilic bacteria may live at 551C. The effects of initial COD on the activity of the reactor sludge in batch assays. Inoculation of the thermophilic aerobic MBBR with activated sludge from a mesophilic paper mill waste- water treatment plant. 8.1072 S. In the present study the applied loading rate was significantly lower (up to 3. / Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075 Table 3 Sludge yield in the reactor. The COD of the biomass (30% of the batch volume) is subtracted. 7. The maximum removal rate of the aerobic system was. 8. This suggests that aerobic thermophilic or thermotolerant microorganisms are present in mesophilic processes in high quantities.06) 0. (in parenthesis).J. indicating that all the biodegradable COD that could be removed under thermophilic conditions was removed in both cases.SCOD (g SS g SCOD1 removed) YVSS.8 kg SCOD m3 d1) than the loading rate to the anaerobic reactor (15 kg SCOD m3 d1). days 78–86a Average daily yield based on suspended biomass a YSS. The percents on the curves refer to the dilution of the water at start-up.1 to 14. for the treatment of pulp and paper mill wastewater or process water under thermophilic conditions.dev. This is demonstrated in Fig. however. The initial whitewater concentration was 2300 mg L1.4 kg FCOD m3 d1) gave only a minor reduction in treatment efficiency .23(0. The thermophilic aerobic process removed the same percentage of organic material (COD) as thermophilic anaerobic treatment of the same water [24]. (a) The COD concentrations in the batches over time.2 h (with an increase in the loading rate from 4.

5) indicates that there might have been nitrogen or phosphorous deficiency in the reactor.3 g SS g SCOD1 removed) was similar to that reported for mesophilic suspended growth systems treating similar wastewater from the same mill [28]. In another study. The COD of the aerobically treated TMP whitewater apparently consisted of carbohydrates.31]. while the removal of lignin-like material was significantly lower (5–15 versus 45%) [30]. or by the difference in community structures in the sludge generated under thermophilic and mesophilic conditions as found by Tripathi and Allen [29] or a difference in community structure between activated sludge and the biomass in the MBBR. This indicates that the loading rate in the current experiment could be further increased without major loss in treatment efficiency. Carbohydrates and lignin-like material contributed to 80–90% of the SCOD in the reactor influent and to 85–95% in the effluent (Fig. Around 25% of the SCOD were probably not biodegradable. In the aerobic suspended process treatment of slaughterhouse effluent.8 kg SCOD kg VSS1 d1 throughout the experiment.27].28 kg TSS kg BOD1 removed was produced in a mesophilic fixed film filter treating fine paper mill effluent [27].5 and 19 mg L1. During the first 30 min. 5). Between 50% and 75% of the whitewater SCOD was degraded in the aerobic thermophilic process. 60–65% removal was achieved. did not cause any decrease in the treatment efficiency based on soluble COD values.J. In this study. Thus. This is recognised as a temporarily increased effluent solid and TCOD (Fig. The average specific degradation rate decreased with increasing time period for the measurements (1–5 h). When the biofilm on the carrier is sloughed off. The removal of carbohydrates (85–95%) was similar to that found in full-scale mesophilic activated sludge treatment of TMP effluents (93%).4–1. Studies on mesophilic suspended growth systems treating TMP whitewater from other mills have given higher (0. before the slope of the curve again increased.18–0. The reason for the low biomass concentration in the thermophilic aerobic MBBR (1400–1700 mg VSS L1) could be the low loading rates applied or nutrient limitation. present study). while 0. A retention time in the aerobic thermophilic reactor above 14 h gave biomass loading rates of 1.1–1. From 30 min to 2 h the degradation rate was low. probably due to the presence of easily degradable material in the water. [33]).26. A separation system for excess sludge would be needed when constructing a full-scale plant.7–2. the degradation rate was high. A mesophilic Kaldnes MBBR treating NSSC wastewater gave a sludge production of 0. Full-scale mesophilic Kaldnes MBBRs treating NSSC (neutral sulphite semi-chemical pulp) wastewater had a biofilm concentration of 7400 mg TS/L with loading rates up to 50–55 kg COD m3 d1 [32]. This difference in removal efficiency may be explained by differences in the wastewater composition. however. lignin and extractives.2 kg TS g COD1 removed [32]. it seems . The ratio in the feed (100 : 2. it leaves the reactor with the effluent. Poor immobilisation is not a likely cause for the low biomass concentration in the reactor. The specific degradation rates that were found when treating similar wastewater in suspended biomass process at 20– 401C were 0.1 d1 versus 0. Chemical addition has been found to improve the precipitation of biomass from mesophilic MBBR treating integrated newsprint mill wastewater. thermophilic aerobic Kaldnes MBBRs treating anaerobically pretreated TMP whitewater gave biomass concentrations up to 6500 mg VSS L1 at loading rates up to 15 kg COD m3 d1 [31].4 mg VSS mg COD1 removed [26]) as well as lower yields (0. Rintala and Vuoriranta [28] demonstrated a COD removal of 80–85% in a mesophilic activated sludge process treating the whitewater from the same mill as in the present study at loading rates of 2–4 kg COD m3 d1. The specific degradation rates of the thermophilic biofilm changed with time in the batch tests (Fig.6 d1. the effluent concentra- 1073 tions of N and P given in Table 2 (7. before full degradation of the hydrolysed material was completed. Activated sludge plants treating pulp and paper industry wastewaters generally operate with a COD : N : P ratio of 100 : 5 : 1 [3]. The major part of the biomass in the thermophilic Kaldnes MBBRs is attached to the carriers ([17. respectively) point towards no such deficiencies.1 mg VSS mg COD1 removed [5]). Jahren et al. Aerobic mesophilic processes typically remove 55–80% of the COD from TMP whitewater [12.5–2. The rest of the influent and effluent SCOD probably consisted of extractives. 7). volatile fatty acids and diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid as found in other studies [30]. The amount of chemicals needed for precipitation was a quarter to a third of that needed without the biological treatment [25]. / Water Research 36 (2002) 1067–1075 (filtered COD removal reduced from 79% to 75%) [25]. However.8– 31. This.20 kg SCOD kg VSS1 d1 [5]. resulting in low biomass formation. 4) as was also found in this study. The sludge yield in the present study (0.6 kg SCOD kg VSS1 d1 and removal rates of 1. This suggests that higher specific removal rates could be obtained in thermophilic than in mesophilic processes. COD removal rates were about 10 times higher under thermophilic (521C and 581C) than under mesophilic conditions (specific utilisation rates of 19.2 : 0. with an average of 62%. There could also be organic fractions in the water that are less biodegradable at a higher temperature. In anaerobic thermophilic treatment of the same whitewater carbohydrates were removed by 94–96% and lignin-like material by 7–20% [24]. causing low sludge production and reduced removal efficiencies. This could indicate that hydrolysis was taking place during the period from 30 min to 2 h.S.

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