Implications of full-scale implementation of an anammox-based process as post-treatment of a municipal anaerobic sludge digester operated with co-digestion

J. R. Vázquez-Padín, N. Morales, R. Gutiérrez, R. Fernández, F. Rogalla, J. P. Barrio, J. L. Campos, A. Mosquera-Corral, R. Méndez

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33 Scopus citations


The feasibility of treating the supernatant of a municipal sludge digester supplemented with co-substrates by means of an anammox-based process (ELAN®) was tested in Guillarei (NW of Spain). Ammonia concentration measured in the supernatant of the sludge digester varied in the range 800-1,500 g N/m 3 due to the fact that the sludge produced in the plant was co-digested with wastes coming from surrounding food industries. Treating this supernatant in the ELAN® reactor, nitrogen removal rates up to 1.1 kg N/(m3 d) were reached in experiments run in a pilot plant reactor operated in batch mode. No nitrite oxidation was registered after several months of operation despite the average dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations being 1.5 g O2/m3 and the temperature reaching values as low as 18°C. By keeping the DO set point at 1-2 g O2/m3 and tuning the hydraulic retention time, the stability of the process was guaranteed and the presence of co-substrates in the anaerobic digester did not affect negatively the operation of the autotrophic nitrogen removal process. Due to the success of the pilot plant experiment, an upscale of the process to full scale is proposed. Mass balances applied to Guillarei wastewater treatment plant revealed that in the main stream line the average denitrification rate calculated with the data of year 2011 was 226 kg N/d. Since the nitrogen removal efficiency is limited by the amount of readily biodegradable organic matter available to carry out denitrification in the water line, the implementation of an anammox-based process to treat the supernatant seems the best option to improve the effluent quality in terms of nitrogen content. The nitrogen removal rate in the sludge line would be 30 times higher than the one in the water line. The implementation of the process would improve the energetic balance and the nitrogen removal performance of the plant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1151-1158
Number of pages8
JournalWater Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Anaerobic digester supernatant
  • Anammox
  • Co-digestion
  • Granular biomass
  • Pilot scale
  • Reject water


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