The research focus of the Process Engineering Department (ENG) ranges from current and future wastewater and drinking water treatment problems, as well as water pollution control and resource reuse. Our long-term goal is to develop sustainable concepts of the water and nutrient cycle in residential areas.
Powerstep - New project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Framework Programme:
01.01.2016 - The process engineering department is contributing to the project Powerstep with the goal of developing approaches for energy-positive wastewater treatment. Wastewater treatment plants in the EU could soon be transformed from consumers to producers of energy – European municipal wastewater is estimated to contain around 315 000 terajoules of energy. If this potential were exploited (e.g. by anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge for biogas generation), the amount of energy produced would be equivalent to the output of 12 large conventional power stations. At the Altenrhein WWTP, we are studying in a full-scale plant how nitrogen can be removed from sludge liquid by ammonia stripping. This is essential if organic solids in wastewater are to be used for energy production without adversely affecting biological wastewater treatment. As a by‑product of the stripping process, a liquid fertilizer is also to be produced. Further information
Formation of aerobic granules for the treatment of real and low-strength municipal wastewater using a sequencing batch reactor operated at constant volume
This study aimed at evaluating the formation of aerobic granular sludge (AGS) for the treatment of real and low-strength municipal wastewater using a column sequencing batch reactor (SBR) operated in fill-draw mode (constant volume). The focus was on understanding how the wastewater upflow velocity (VWW) applied during the anaerobic feeding influenced the sludge properties and in turn the substrate conversion. Two different strategies were tested: (1) washing-out the flocs by imposing high wastewater upflow velocities (between 5.9 and 16 m h−1) during the anaerobic feeding (Approach #1) and (2) selective utilization of organic carbon during the anaerobic feeding (1 m h−1) combined with a selective sludge withdrawal (Approach #2). A column SBR of 190 L was operated in constant volume during 1500 days and fed with real and low-strength municipal wastewater. The formation of AGS with SVI30 of around 80 mL gTSS−1 was observed either at very low (1 m h−1) or at high VWW (16 m h−1). At 16 m h−1 the AGS was mainly composed of large and round granules (d > 0.63 mm) with a fluffy surface, while at 1 m h−1 the sludge was dominated by small granules (0.25 < d < 0.63 mm). The AGS contained a significant fraction of flocs during the whole operational period. A considerable and continuous washout of biomass occurred at VWW higher than 5.9 m h−1 (Approach #1) due to the lower settling velocity of the AGS fed with municipal wastewater. The low sludge retention observed at VWW higher than 5.9 m h−1 deteriorated the substrate conversion and in turn the effluent quality. High solid concentrations (and thus solid retention time) were maintained during Approach #2 (VWW of 1 m h−1), which resulted in an excellent effluent quality. The study demonstrated that the formation of AGS is possible during the treatment of real and low-strength municipal wastewater in a SBR operated at constant volume. Low wastewater upflow velocities should be applied during the anaerobic feeding phase in order to ensure enough biomass retention and efficient substrate removal.
Derlon,N.; Wagner,J.; Ribeiro da Costa,R.H.; Morgenroth,E. (2016) Formation of aerobic granules for the treatment of real and low-strength municipal wastewater using a sequencing batch reactor operated at constant volume, Water research, 105, 341-350, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2016.09.007, Institutional Repository
Operating a pilot-scale nitrification/distillation plant for complete nutrient recovery from urine
Source-separated urine contains most of the excreted nutrients, which can be recovered by using nitrification to stabilize the urine before concentrating the nutrient solution with distillation. The aim of this study was to test this process combination at pilot scale. The nitrification process was efficient in a moving bed biofilm reactor with maximal rates of 930 mg N L−1 d−1. Rates decreased to 120 mg N L−1 d−1 after switching to more concentrated urine. At high nitrification rates (640 mg N L−1 d−1) and low total ammonia concentrations (1,790 mg NH4-N L−1 in influent) distillation caused the main primary energy demand of 71 W cap−1 (nitrification: 13 W cap−1) assuming a nitrogen production of 8.8 g N cap−1 d−1. Possible process failures include the accumulation of the nitrification intermediate nitrite and the selection of acid-tolerant ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. Especially during reactor start-up, the process must therefore be carefully supervised. The concentrate produced by the nitrification/distillation process is low in heavy metals, but high in nutrients, suggesting a good suitability as an integral fertilizer.
Fumasoli,A.; Etter,B.; Sterkele,B.; Morgenroth,E.; Udert,K.M. (2016) Operating a pilot-scale nitrification/distillation plant for complete nutrient recovery from urine, Water Science and Technology, 73(1), 215-222, doi:10.2166/wst.2015.485, Institutional Repository
Mainstream partial nitritation and anammox: long-term process stability and effluent quality at low temperatures
The implementation of autotrophic anaerobic ammonium oxidation processes for the removal of nitrogen from municipal wastewater (known as “mainstream anammox”) bears the potential to bring wastewater treatment plants close to energy autarky. The aim of the present work was to assess the long-term stability of partial nitritation/anammox (PN/A) processes operating at low temperatures and their reliability in meeting nitrogen concentrations in the range of typical discharge limits below 2 mgNH4-N·L−1mgNH4-N·L−1 and 10 mgNtot·L−1. Two main 12-L sequencing batch reactors were operated in parallel for PN/A on aerobically pre-treated municipal wastewater (21 ± 5 mgNH4-N·L−1mgNH4-N·L−1 and residual 69 ± 19 mgCODtot·L−1) for more than one year, including over 5 months at 15 °C. The two systems consisted of a moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) and a hybrid MBBR (H-MBBR) with flocculent biomass. Operation at limiting oxygen concentrations (0.15–0.18 mgO2·L−1mgO2·L−1) allowed stable suppression of the activity of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria at 15 °C with a production of nitrate over ammonium consumed as low as 16% in the MBBR. Promising nitrogen removal rates of 20–40 mgN·L−1·d−1 were maintained at hydraulic retention times of 14 h. Stable ammonium and total nitrogen removal efficiencies over 90% and 70% respectively were achieved. Both reactors reached average concentrations of total nitrogen below 10 mgN·L−1 in their effluents, even down to 6 mgN·L−1 for the MBBR, with an ammonium concentration of 2 mgN·L−1 (set as operational threshold to stop aeration). Furthermore, the two PN/A systems performed almost identically with respect to the biological removal of organic micropollutants and, importantly, to a similar extent as conventional treatments. A sudden temperature drop to 11 °C resulted in significant suppression of anammox activity, although this was rapidly recovered after the temperature was increased back to 15 °C. Analyses of 16S rRNA gene-targeted amplicon sequencing revealed that the anammox guild of the bacterial communities of the two systems was composed of the genus “Candidatus Brocadia”. The potential of PN/A systems to compete with conventional treatments for biological nutrients removal both in terms of removal rates and overall effluent quality was proven.