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Effect of ammoniacal nitrogen on one-stage and two-stage anaerobic digestion of food waste

Ariunbaatar, Javkhlan, Scotto Di Perta, Ester, Panico, Antonio, Frunzo, Luigi, Esposito, Giovanni, Lens, Piet N.L., Pirozzi, Francesco
Waste management 2015 v.38 pp. 388-398
alkalinity, ammonia, ammonium nitrogen, anaerobic digestion, biogas, biohydrogen, food waste, inhibitory concentration 50, inoculum, methanogens, pH, propionic acid, volatile fatty acids, waste management
This research compares the operation of one-stage and two-stage anaerobic continuously stirred tank reactor (CSTR) systems fed semi-continuously with food waste. The main purpose was to investigate the effects of ammoniacal nitrogen on the anaerobic digestion process. The two-stage system gave more reliable operation compared to one-stage due to: (i) a better pH self-adjusting capacity; (ii) a higher resistance to organic loading shocks; and (iii) a higher conversion rate of organic substrate to biomethane. Also a small amount of biohydrogen was detected from the first stage of the two-stage reactor making this system attractive for biohythane production. As the digestate contains ammoniacal nitrogen, re-circulating it provided the necessary alkalinity in the systems, thus preventing an eventual failure by volatile fatty acids (VFA) accumulation. However, re-circulation also resulted in an ammonium accumulation, yielding a lower biomethane production. Based on the batch experimental results the 50% inhibitory concentration of total ammoniacal nitrogen on the methanogenic activities was calculated as 3.8g/L, corresponding to 146mg/L free ammonia for the inoculum used for this research. The two-stage system was affected by the inhibition more than the one-stage system, as it requires less alkalinity and the physically separated methanogens are more sensitive to inhibitory factors, such as ammonium and propionic acid.