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Water Res. 2012 Dec 1;46(19):6247-56. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2012.08.028. Epub 2012 Sep 7.

The kinetics of process dependent ammonia inhibition of methanogenesis from acetic acid.

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  • 1Greeley and Hansen, 9020 Stony Point Parkway, Richmond, VA 23221, United States.


Advanced anaerobic digestion processes aimed at improving the methanization of sewage sludge may be potentially impaired by the production of inhibitory compounds (e.g. free ammonia). The result of methanogenic inhibition is relatively high effluent concentrations of acetic acid and other soluble organics, as well as reduced methane yields. An extreme example of such an advanced process is the thermal hydrolytic pretreatment of sludge prior to high solids digestion (THD). Compared to a conventional mesophilic anaerobic digestion process (MAD), THD operates in a state of constant inhibition driven by high free ammonia concentrations, and elevated pH values. As such, previous investigations of the kinetics of methanogenesis from acetic acid under uninhibited conditions do not necessarily apply well to the modeling of extreme processes such as THD. By conducting batch ammonia toxicity assays using biomass from THD and MAD reactors, we compared the response of these communities over a broad range of ammonia inhibition. For both processes, increased inhibitor concentrations resulted in a reduction of biomass growth rate (r(max) = μ(max)∙X) and a resulting decrease in the substrate half saturation coefficient (K(S)). These two parameters exhibited a high degree of correlation, suggesting that for a constant transport limited system, the K(S) was mostly a linear function of the growth rate. After correcting for reactor pH and temperature, we found that the THD and MAD biomass were both able to perform methanogenesis from acetate at high free ammonia concentrations (equivalent to 3-5 g/L total ammonia nitrogen), albeit at less than 30% of their respective maximum rates. The reduction in methane production was slightly less pronounced for the THD biomass than for MAD, suggesting that the long term exposure to ammonia had selected for a methanogenic pathway less dependent on those organisms most sensitive to ammonia inhibition (i.e. aceticlastic methanogens).

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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