Major contributions to the broad application of anaerobic granulation treatment and a better understanding of this process are a result of much effort of the researchers in the 1980s. Much emphasis has been placed on the significance of anaerobic granulation technology in meeting the need for sustainable development in the future. Substantial effort is now being installed in exploring broader applications of anaerobic granulation treatment for removal of unwanted organic pollutants by converting them into biogas, a renewable energy source.
Anaerobic treatment using sludge granulation has gained tremendous success over the past two decades for treatment of a variety of industrial effluents. Apparent advantages derived are from low operating costs, compact reactor construction, production of energy in the form of biogas, low surplus sludge production, which result in overall favorable economics. For anaerobic treatment to compete with alternative technologies such as aerobic or physico-chemical treatment, it has to be cost-effective in terms of investment and operating costs, reliable, and durable. System designs have focused on increased process control to secure optimal operating conditions and system "compactness" in order to reduce investment costs.
High-rate anaerobic process for industrial wastewater was first applied on a commercial-scale in the sugar industry in the mid-1970s. Since then, the technology has developed into a well-received method of wastewater treatment for a wide variety of industries. The technology is now employed in over 65 countries and a total of approximately 1400 plants were built by the 16 leading vendors of such systems (Frankin, 2001). These high-rate treatment plants account for approximately 65% of the total number of anaerobic treatment plants for industrial applications, which is estimated to be 2000. From an analysis of a database consisting of 1215 plants, it appears that the upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) technology as originally developed in the Netherlands is the most predominant process. It is also seen that the highly loaded expanded granular sludge bed systems are gradually replacing at least some of the upflow anaerobic sludge blanket applications.
Various reactor designs have been developed over the past two decades that are based on various ways of retaining biomass within the reactor system. Recently, information on implementation of anaerobic technologies used for the treatment of municipal and industrial wastes and wastewaters was collected (Hulshoff Pol et al., 1998). A comprehensive overview is given of the anaerobic systems and advancement currently used for the worldwide treatment industrial wastewaters.
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