Case Studies

Many anaerobic pilot plants have been applied successfully in treating OMW in various parts of the world. The following describe some of these pilot plants and tests.

Case Study I. The search for an economic treatment process for wastewater from an olive oil extraction plant in Kandano (region of Chania, Crete) led to the concept of a pilot plant. The goal was to study the efficiency of separate anaerobic treatment of the settled sludge and of the sludge liquor from the settling tank (Fig. 8) [38]. Description of the plant:

• delivery, storage container;

• settling tank with a capacity of 650 m3;

• anaerobic digester (volume: 16 m3) for the sludge;

• UASB (upflow anaerobic sludge blanket) reactor (volume: 18 m3) for the sludge liquor.

The plant can receive one-sixth of the total wastewater volume produced. The daily influent is 30 m3. The wastewater is collected in a storage container where its quality and quantity are analyzed. The raw wastewater is then retained for ten days in the settling tank where the particular substances settle. Two separate zones are formed:

• the supernatant zone;

1 the thickening and scraping zone.

Pilot Plant Wastewater Systems
Figure 8 Pilot plant for treatment of wastewater from olive oil extraction in Kandano (a region of Chania, Crete) (from Ref. 38).

Both the preclarified sludge liquor and the primary sludge withdrawn are anaerobically treated in parallel. There is the risk of scum layer formation in the settling tank, which may lead to strong odors. This problem can be solved by covering the tank or using a scraper bridge.

The preclarified sludge liquor is preheated and fed into the UASB reactor. The biogas obtained is withdrawn from the upper part of the reactor and conducted to the gas storage room. The liquid phase is submitted to sedimentation, then stored in a container.

After the addition of nutrients and pH regulation, the primary sludge, showing a high water content (65-80%), is fed into a completely mixed digester. The biogas is again withdrawn from the upper part of the digester and conducted to the gas storage room. The treated liquid phase is conducted to the settling tank and then to the collecting container. At this point, the biogas is incinerated.

To build a plant that treats 30 m3 per day, a surface of at least 1 ha is necessary, at the cost of about 150,000 Euro. This sum does not include the construction costs for a soil filter or an irrigation system because these strongly depend on the location of the plant.

At least 50% of the staff should be skilled workers, including a chemical engineer who is in charge of plant operation. Because of its high realization costs, this method is suited for industrial-scale oil mills, or as a central treatment facility for several oil mills.

The biogas may be used by the plant itself, or it may be fed into the public supply grid. The liquid phase, designated to be spread on agricultural land, is stored in an open pit. After drying, the solids can be sold as soil-improving material or as humus after having been mixed with vegetable residues. There are no odor nuisances from escaping liquids from the digesters, and maintenance costs are moderate. If the treated wastewater is additionally submitted to soil filtration and then used for irrigation or as fertilizer, the water cycle is closed, thus solving the problem of olive oil waste.

Case Study II. A pilot plant was operated between January 1993 and April 1994 to treat the wastewater from an oil mill in the region of Kalyvia/Attica (Fig. 9) [38]. Description of the plant:

• delivery, storage tank with a volume of 20 m3 for the total quantity of margine produced;

• settling tank with a volume of 4 m3;

• UASB reactor with a working volume of 2 m3, additionally equipped with a high performance heat exchanger to maintain the temperature during the mesophile phase;

• fixed-bed reactor with a working volume of 2 m3, a high-performance heat exchanger, and recirculation system;

• seven tests (mesophile phase) have been carried out under varying operational conditions.

The organic load was degraded by 88-89%. During the fourth test, the phenol content was reduced by 74-75%, while the biogas production was 21-23L gas per liter of bioreactor volume.

Foregoing the addition of CaO and expensive processing equipment facilitates the treatment for wastewater from oil mills. Plant investments can be quickly amortized by methane production.

Case Study III. A pilot test has been carried out in Tunisia with a sludge-bed reactor and an anaerobic contact reactor, followed by a two-stage aerobic treatment [15,38]. To compare the two different anaerobic processes, the semitechnical pilot plant was designed with parallel streams. The goal was not only to determine parameters and values for design and operation of optimal anaerobic-aerobic treatment, dependent on the achievable purification

Figure 9 Pilot plant for treatment of wastewater from an olive oil mill in the region of Kalyvia, Attica (from Ref. 38).

capacity, but also to examine, modify, and further develop the process technology with regard to optimizing the purification capacity of the single stages, the total purification capacity, and process stability.

The tests determined that both anaerobic-aerobic procedures proved successful in the treatment of liquid waste from olive oil production. Comparing the anaerobic contact process with the bed process, neither is clearly favored. Both procedures lead to nearly the same results with regard to pretreatment of liquid waste from olive oil production.

Case Study IV. The anaerobic treatability of olive mill effluent was investigated using a laboratory-scale UASB reactor (with active volume of 10.35 L) operating for about 6 months. The black water collected from a traditional olive oil extraction plant in Gemlik village (Turkey) was used as the feed [22].

Active anaerobic sludge retained in the UASB reactor after a previous study was used as the seed. During the startup, pH was maintained in the range 6.8-8.0 and the average temperature was kept at mesophilic operating conditions (34°C) in the reactor. NaOH solution was added directly to the reactor to maintain the required pH levels when it was necessary. Urea was added to the feed to provide COD: N: P ratio of 350:5:1 in the system due to N deficiency of the feed.

In the first part of this study, the reactor was operated with feed COD concentrations from 5000 to 19,000 mg/L and a retention time of 1 day, giving organic loading rates (OLR) of 5-18 kg COD/m3-day. Soluble COD removal was around 75% under these conditions. In the second part of the study, feed COD was varied from 15,000 to 22,600 mg/L while retention times ranged from 0.83 to 2 days; soluble COD removal was around 70%. A methane conversion rate of 0.35 m3 per kg COD removed was achieved during the study. The average volatile solids or biomass (VS) concentration in the reactor had increased from 12.75 g/L to 60 g/L by the end of the study. Sludge volume index (SVI) determinations performed to evaluate the settling characteristics of the anaerobic sludge in the reactor indicating excellent settleability with SVI values of generally less than 20 mL/g. Active sludge granules ranging from 3 to 8 mm in diameter were produced in the reactor.

In short, it may be concluded that anaerobic treatment may be a very feasible alternative for olive mill effluents, but additional posttreatment, such as aerobic treatment, would be needed to satisfy discharge standards required for receiving waters (river, lake).

Case Study V. This experiment aimed at gaining better insight into the degradation of the main compounds contained in the OME, in particular, the interaction between the two successive stages occurring in the anaerobic digestion: acidogenesis and methanogenesis [23].

Fresh OME was obtained from the olive oil continuous centrifuge processing plant of Montelibretti (Rome). The tests were carried out in 500 mL glass bottles with perforated screw tops with latex underneath, which served to ensure that the bottles were airtight. These bottles were filled with OME diluted in distilled water to obtain the required concentration (in the range of 10-60 g COD/L). The inoculum was obtained from a sludge anaerobic digester at the East Rome wastewater treatment plant. The main results that can be drawn from this study are as follows.

Under the most favorable conditions (pH 8.5, 35°C, initial concentration 10 g COD/L, acclimatized inoculum) the OME were degraded with a high conversion yield (70-80%), both in acidogenic and methanogenic tests. Most of the lipids were degraded both in acidogenesis and methanogenesis tests. On the other hand, polyphenol-like substances were not degraded at all in acidogenic conditions, whereas they were partially removed in methanogenic conditions. Such a difference has been observed both in OME and synthetic solutions. A little methanogenic activity, established in acidogenic conditions because of the partial degradation of the chemical inhibitor, seems to be the key factor determining lipids degradation, even in acidogenesis tests.

It was also experimentally reported that polyphenol degradation is directly related to the presence of an intense methanogenic activity. In addition, bioconversion yields of OME in acidogenesis are remarkably less sensitive to the effect of pH and substrate concentrations than in methanogenesis. This result might lead to adoption of two-phase anaerobic digestion of OME as a suitable process for optimizing its performance. It is our recommendation that further research be conducted in this scope.

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