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4 Process operation
Historically aerobic digestion has been regarded as a siple process with very modest operational
requirements. In fact, aerobic digesters have frequently been used merely as solids holding and thickening
tanks that are aerated to avoid nuisance conditioons. IN such situations, digestion occurs simply because of
the aerobic conditions maintaned. As a consequence, troubleshooting guides for aerobic digestion typically
emphasize activities to keep equipment in working order and to avoid nuisance conditions, rather than
activities aimed at process control. This situation will change as more sophisticated performance
requirements are imposed, including the need to achieve specified pathogen inactivation standards or
adequate solids stabilization as evidenced by either a stipulated VSS destruction efficiency or a specified
SOUR. More stringent requirements will cause increased emphasis on the maintenance of desired values of
the SRT, pH and temperature. Many of these objectives can be accomplished at existin aerobic digestion
facilities. For example the operation of CAD systems, particularly intermittently fed ones as A/AD systems,
can avoid the precipitous drop in pH often associated wth aerobic digestion. In addition, wase solids can be
thickened prior to their addition to the digester so that autoheating will occur, resulting in improved
digestion performance and pathogen inctivation. Minor physical modificationsto reduce heat loss during the
winter can also result in elevated digester temperatures. Such simple changes can significantly improve
process performance. Furthermore, the use of oxidation – reduction potential as a technique for real – time
control of the A/AD pprocess should facilitate its operation and optimization and encourage greater full –
scale use.
The supernatant from aerobic digestion is often of such poor quality that it cannot be discharged
directly to the environment, requiring it to be recycled to the head of liquid treatment train. This is due in
part to the fact that the destruction of biomass results n the release of soluble cellular constituents including
nitrogen, phosporus, micronutrients and nonbiodegradable organic matter. IN addition the settleability of
aerobically digested solids can be poor, making the suspended solids concentration in the supernatant high.
Care must be exercised to minimize the suspended solids content of the supernatant and to control the timing
of the return of supernatant to the liquid treatment train so as to minimize any adverse impacts on its
performance. If the liqudi treatment process is highly loaded, it may be desirable to return supernatant
during low nighttime loading periods. In contrast, for nutrient removal systems it may be desirabe to return
the supernatant during the high loadig period when an increased mass of organic matter is available to
remove the recycled nutrients. Analysis of the entire treatment system will allow the operator to select the
optimal approach.
12.5 Key points
1. Aerobic digestion has two primary objectives : (1) the destruction of biodegradable pparticulate
organic matter and (2) the inactivation of pathogens present in waste solids.
2. Aerobic digestion is most applicable to the stabilization of waste biological solids , such as those
generated by activated sludge and trickling filter facilities . It can also be used to stabilize primary
solis, but aerobic digestion of such solids is often less economic than anaerobic digestion.
3. The influent to an aerobic digester contains both biodegradable and nonbiodegradable particulate
orgaic matter. The relative proportions of each depend on the loading and operating characteristics of
the process producing the solids.
4. The destruction of biodegradable particulate organic matter can be characterized as a first order
5. Both volatile and fixed suspended solids are destroyed during aerobic digestion, although the relative
proportions destroyed may not be the same. Fixed suspended solids are lost as they are solubilized
and released from the biodegredable particulate organic matter destroyed.
6. Solids stabilization is typicaly quantified as either the percent VSS destruction achieved during
digestion or the specific oxygen uptake rate (SOUR) of the digested solids.
7. In conventional aerobic digestion (CAD) the solids are maintained under aerobic conditions at the
ambient temperature for a period of time adequate to achieve the desired degree of solids
stabilization and pathogen inactivation. Both intermittent and continuous feed options are available.
Nitrification of released ammonia – N typically occurs resulting in the destruction of alkalinity and
deprression of the pH
8. Anoxic / aerobic digestion (A/AD) includes an anoxic and aerobic sequence in the digestion process.
Alkalinity produced through denitrification can offset that consumed in the nitrification of the
ammonia-N-released. Oxygen requirements are also reduced in comparison to CAD.
9. Autoheating of the digester can be achieved if the solids are thickened prior to digestion and the
vessel is designed to minimize heat loss. In autothermal thermophilic aerobic digestion (ATAD), such
approaches are used to achieve bioreactor temperatures in the 45 to 65 oC range. This results in
increased rates of solids stabilization and pathogen inactivation. Because nitrification does ot occur
under thermopilic condotions, pH depression is avoided and oxygen requirements are reduced.
10. The destruction of biodegradable organic matte in aerobic digester can be caracterized using a
variety of approaches. Mathematical approaches include a first-order decay model, the simplified
model presented in Chapter 5, and IAWQ ASM no 1. Another approach uses empirical correlations,
suc as those that relate percent VSS desruction to the operating temperature-SRT product.
11. Aerobic digestion is most efficient at neutral pH. Maintenance of a neutral pH can be accoplished by
useof A/AD to denitrify any nitrate N-generated, ATAD to eliminate nitirification, or chemical pH
control in CAD.
12. The mixing energy required to maintain solids in suspension increases as the suspended solids
concentraton in the aerobic digester is increased.
13. The performane of an aerobic digester can be improved by designing and operating it as a series of
CSTRs rather than as a single CSTR.
14. Data collected using batch tests can provide the basis for the design of aerobic digesters. Because of
the variability associated with the solids characteristics, a series of tests should be run and a
stastistical approach used, as the basis for the design. The batch tests must be conducted
underconditions reflective of those anticipated in the full-scale system.
15. The physical design of an aerobic digester can significantly influence its peration and performance.
Heat loss can be a particularly significant problem in colder climates.

12.6 Study Questions

1. Prepare a thable that summarizes the typical SRT values, bioreactor suspended solids concentrations,
operating temperatures, and pH values for three types of aerobic digestion. Describe how the
differences in operating conditions result in differences in performance.
2. List the benefits and drawbacks of a aerobic and describe where it is typically applied.
3. Discuss how ASM No. 1 can be evaluate A/AD. Describe the steps required to apply the model,
including procedures to calibrate it.
4. What factors determine the biodegradable fraction of waste solids leaving an cativated sludge
systems? Express the results in terms of the simplified model on Chapter 5.
5. Describe the batch technique used to determine the decay coefficient and non biodegradable fraction
of waste solids ncluding the data analysis, why must constant temperature and pH values be
maintained during the test?
6. A batch aerobic digestion test was performed on waste activated sludge from a pilot plant treating a
soluble wastewater. The temperature was 20oC and the pH was maintained at a value above 6.5. The
results are presented i n table SQ12.1. (a) Determine the concentrations of the volatile and fixed non
biodegredable suspended solids. (b) Determine that decay coefficients for both volatile and fixed
suspended solids
7. A completely mixed aerobic digester is to be designed to treat the waste solids characterized in Study
Question 6. The solids will be thickened to 10.000 mg/L prior to digestion but no additional
thickening will be practiced in the digester. The winter operating temperatur will be 10 oC and the
temperature correction factor, θ, is 1,04. The flow rate of the thickened solids will be 500 m 3/day. (a)
What SRT is required to provide 38% VSS destruction during winter operating conditions? (b) The
temperature of the bioreactor can be elevated to 25oC by insulation and selection of the oxygen
transfer device. What SRT is required to achieve 38% VSS destruction at this temperature? (c) What
is the SOUR of the digested solids at 25 oC? (d) What is the oxygen requirement for the aerobic
digester? (e) What olume must the digester have at 25 oC? (f) Assuming that FSS are lost during
digestion in a first order manner, what is the percent reduction in TSS at 25 oC? (g) How much power
is required to mix the bioreactor at 25oC?
8. Use the simple model of Chapter 5 to define the characteristics of the waste solds produced by a
activated sludge systems operating at 20oC and an SRT of 5 days. For thes calculations use the
wastewater characteristics presented in Table E8.4 and the stoichiometric and kinetic parameters in
Table E8.5. Assume that all slowly biodegradable substrate is solubilized and converted to readily
biodegradable substrate, as was done in using the simple model in Chapter 20. Clearly state all other
assumptions. The wastewater flow rate to the activated sludge systems is 12.000 m 3/day. How many
kg/day of waste solids are produced? Express your answer both as VSS and TSS. What fraction of
the VSS is biodegradable? What is the souR of the waste solids? Does the estimated SOUR indicate
that the solids are stabilized?

Table SQ12.1 Batch Aerobic Digestion Data

Time Days TSS, mg/L VSS, %
0,00 3.080 87,0
0,34 3.000 86,6
0,84 2.890 85,2
1,9 2.630 85,7
2,9 2.320 85,9
3,9 2.140 87,3
4,9 1.926 87,5
5,9 1.710 88,0
6,9 1.690 87,9
7,9 1.590 88,5
8,9 1.520 87,7
9,9 1.490 88,2
10,9 1.320 88,0
11,9 1.260 87,3
12,9 1.280 87,8
13,9 1.140 88,6
14,9 980 86,6
15,9 1.060 87,7
16,9 1.030 87,3

9. Using the information developed in Study Question 8, size an aerobic digester t reduce the SOUR to
1,0 mg O2/(g VSS. hr). Assume that bMV is numerically equal to ber. Also assume that FSS are
conserved. Compare the SRTs required for configurations consisting of one and two tanks in series.
Size the boreactors, calculate the oxygen requirements and the compare the power required for
oxygen transfer to that required for mixing for each configuration. Assume that the digesters will be
operated without solids recycle and that feed solids are thickened to 15.000 mg/L as TSS. Also
assume that the efficiency of the ocygen transfer device is 1,2 kg/ O 2 (kW. hr). What percentage vss
destruction will each digester achieve?
10. Use ASM No. 1 to define the characteristics of the waste solids produced by an activated sludge
system operating at 20oC and an SRT of 5 days. For these calculations use the wastewater
characteristics presented in Table E8.4 and the stoiochioetric and kinetic parameters in table 6.3.
Clearly state all assumptions. The wastewater flow rate to the activated sludge system is 12.000
m3/day. How many kg/day of waste solids are produced? Express your answer both as COD and
VSS. What fraction of the waste solids is biodegradable? What is the SOUR of the waste solids?
Does the estimated SOUR indicate that the solids are stabilized?
11. Use ASM No. 1 to evaluate the effect of SRT on the performance of a single CSTR CAD system
receiving the waste solids characterized in Study Question 10. Model it as a continuous feed process
with solids recycle. After preparing a graph of percent solids destruction versus SRT. Choose an sRT
to give 38% solids destruction and size the bioreactor to maintain a solids concentration of 15.000
mg/L on a vss basis. How much alkalinity would have to be supplied to maintain a resiudal alkalinity
of 50 mg/L as CaCO3?
12. Reconsider the CAD system sized in Study Question 11. Maintaining the same SRT and total
bioreactor volume, reconfigure the system as an A/AD system like that shown in figure 12.7c. Then
use Asm No. 1 to investigate the effects of the reciruculation flow rate and the relative sizes of the
anoxic and aerobic zones on the performance of the system. Specifically, investigate the effects of
those variables on the percent solids destruction, the effluent nitrate-N concentration, the oxygen
requirement and the alkalinity required to maintain a residul alkalinity of 50 mg/L as CaCO3 .

13. Anaerobic processes

The term anaerobic process refers to a diverse array to biologicl wastewater treatment systems from
which dissolved oxygen and nitrate-N are excluded. In most instances they are operated to convert
biodegradable organic matter, both soluble and particulate, to methane and carbon dioxide. Since methane is
a sparingly soluble gas, most is evolved and recovered, thereby removing organic matter from the liquid
phase and stabilizing any solids present in the influent or produced in the process. Anaerobic digestion of
municipal wastewater solids also results inactivation of pathogens, a step that is usually required prior to
ultimate solids disposal. In some cases, anaerobic processes are operated to convert biodegradable
particulate organic matter into volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which are subsequently separated from the
particulate matter ad fed to biological nutrient removal (BNR) systems to enhance their performance.
13.1 Process Description
Anaerobic processes have been used in wastewater treatment systems for more than a century,
initially to stabilize the solids produced. tHese bioreactors, called an aerobic digesters, were simple concrete
tanks in which the solids were placed as a slurry and allowed to decompose anaerobically. Hydraulic
retention times of 60 days or more were common. Gradually, it was discovered that the decomposition could
be accelerated by heating the digester to a consistent temperature of about 35 oC and mixing it to provide
uniform reaction conditions. These discoveries led to the current high rate anaerobic digestion process,
which uses HRTs of 15 to 20 days. Anaerobic digestion remains an extremely popular and widely used
solids stabilization process, particularly in municipal wastewater treatment.
Development of high rate anaerobic digestion fostered interest in the use of anaerobic processes to
treat high strength industrial wastewaters leading to the development and use of wide variety of innovative
systems. Some can be classified as either suspended growth or attached growth systems, but many are hybrd
systems, incorporating elements of both. All anaerobic processes, regardless o the type of biomass
employed. Additional details on attached growth systems are provided in Chapter 18 and 21.
The purposeful use of anaerobic digestion to inactive pathogens in municipal wastewater solids is a
relatively new and evolving application. Just as in aerobic digestion, pathogen inactivation does not occur as
a direct consequence of the digestion process per se; rather it is a result of the enviromental conditions in the
digester. Pathogen inactivation in aerobic digesters in relatively efficient because of the elevated
temperatures that are typically maintained.
As mentioned above, anaerobic processes are beginning to be used to hydrolize and ferment a
portion of the biodegradable organic matter in wastewater solids, produsing VFAs. The VFAs are then
removed from the solids by elutriation and used to enchance BNR processes, as discussed in Chapter 11.
The solids are then concentrated prior to subsequent treatment.
13.1.1 General Description
A general description of the microbiology and bichemistry of anaerobic processes is presented in
Chapter 2 and 3, whie the kinetics of the transformations are summarized in Section 9.3.2. Although the
chemistry,biochemistry, and microbiology of anaerobic decomposition are quite complex, it can be
conceptualized as comprising three steps as summarized in figure 2.3: (1) hydrolysis of particulate organic
matter to soluble substrates; (2) fermentation of those soluble substrates to produce acetic acid, carbon
dioxide, and H2; and (3) coversion of the acetic acid, the H2 and aportion of the carbon dioxide to methane.
Methane is a sparingly soluble gas, which is evolved from solution and colected for subsequent use. The
evolution of methane decreases the chemical oxygen demand ( COD ) o the waste stream and provides the
mechanism for stabilization of the biodegradable organic matter contained in it. Only minimal COD
reduction occurs without methane production, and it is associated with the formation and evolution of H 2. As
discussed in Sections 2.3.2 and 9.3.2, the H2 oxidizing methanogens are fast growing organisms and are
present in ost anaerobic tretament systems, resulting in conversion of most of the H 2 producedto methane.
However, since the greatest proportion of the methane produced comes from acetic acid, growth of
aceticlastic methanogens is required to achieve significant waste stabilization.
Since COD stabilization in anaerobic processes is directly related to methane evolution, methane
production can be calculated from the COD removed in the process, just as the oxygen requirement in a
aerobic system can be calculated from a COD balance. AS discussed in Section 2.3.2 two moles of oxygen
are required to oxidize one mole of methane to carbon dioxide and water. Thus, the COD equivalent of
methane is 4 kg COD/kg methane. At standard temperature and pressure (0 oC and one atmosphere ) this
corresponds to 0,35 m3 of methane produced per kg of COD converted to methane. For municipal primary
solids, the methane equivalent is 0,7 m 3 of methane produced per kg of volatile solids ( VS ) destroyed. The
carbon dixide content of the gas produced in anaerobic processes ranges beetwen about 30 and 50% and
vares depending on the nature of the substrate. For example, the carbon dioxide content is higher when
carbohydrates are being treated what when proteins are treated.
Lema, et al have summarize those aspects of anaerobic processes that particularly affect their design.
They are :
 The very low growth rates that the microorganism have during methane fementation
 The low microbial specific activity, especially at the final step of process.
 The very low values of the half-saturation coefficients, which means an extraordinary affinity of the
microorganism for their substrates.
 The importance of internal and external resistances to mass transfer.
 The inhibition produced by chemicals present in the wastewater or produced in the process.
 The necessity of keeping the physico- chemical parameters within relatively limited ranges to
maximize the activity of the micoorganism.
 The need to design and operate a system that can handle fluctations in wastewater flow and