Table 9 Several Food and Beverage Industries With Their Special Problems and Solutions Source


Special problem


Potato processing industry Solids

Potato and wheat starch industry

Beet sugar factories

Pectin factories Breweries

Distilleries (alcohol production from molasses slops)

Anaerobic pretreatment of wastewater from different industries in one plant

Anaerobic/aerobic treatment

Precipitation of MAP (magnesium ammonium phosphate)

Lime precipitation pH lower than 5 in the pond system

High nitrate concentrations over 1000 mg NO3-N/L Considerable pH variations Kieselguhr contents

Aluminum precipitation in the acidification stage Discontinuous production

Sieve, acidification tank, EGSB methane reactor pH regulation

Cyclone Lowering the pH in the circuit system

Denitrification stage before methane reactor

Equalizing tanks, pH regulation Treatment together with municipal sludge Settling tank

Equalizing tanks and pH regulation

Different small factories with high loaded wastewater and campaign processing

Carbon: nitrogen relation bulking sludge_

Anaerobic pretreatment of the wastewater mixture of a brewery, two vegetable, and one fish processing factory at the municipal sewage treatment plant

Bypassing the anaerobic stage, pretreatment_

juice, mashed potato, and potato starch wastewater, respectively. Hydrolysis played an important role in the anaerobic digestion process by converting the particulate substrate in the mashed potato and potato starch wastewaters to soluble substrate, which was subsequently utilized by anaerobes for production of organic acids and methane production.

Based on the wastewater composition (average data of settled samples: COD 4000 mg/L; total N 120 mg/L; total P 60 mg/L), wastewater from the potato processing industry is very well suited for anaerobic treatment. Accordingly, there are over 50 anaerobic plants in this sector of the industry worldwide, the majority of which consist of UASB reactors. More recently, the EGSB process (high-performance UASB), developed from the UASB, has been implemented. In the potato processing industry, several UASB

plants have been built by Biothane Systems Inc. and its worldwide partners for customers such as McCain Foods (French fries) and Pepsico (potato crisps). Recently, other Biothane UASB plants have joined the Pepsico network, such as Greece (Tasty Foods, Athens), Turkey (Ozay Gida, Istanbul) and Poland (E. Wedel, Warsaw) [14].

An important prerequisite is that the influent to the UASB reactor must be virtually free of suspended solids, since the solids would displace the active pellet sludge in the system. The newly developed EGSB reactors are operated with a higher upflow velocity, which causes a partial washout of the suspended solids [14]. EGSB technology is capable of handling wastewater of fairly low temperatures and considerable fluctuations in COD composition and load throughout the year.

A description of the first large-scale EGSB (Biobed reactor) in Germany will be presented in case studies to follow.

Comparison Between Biothane UASB Reactors and Biobed EGSB Reactors [14]. The UASB technology (Fig. 15) and the EGSB technology (Fig. 16) both make use of granular anaerobic biomass. The processes have the same operation principles, but differ in terms of geometry, process parameters, and construction materials.

In both processes, wastewater is fed into the bottom of the reactor through a specially designed influent distribution system. The water flows through a sludge bed consisting of anaerobic bacteria, which develop into a granular form. The excellent settleability (60-80 m/ hour) of these anaerobic granules enables high concentrations of biomass in a small reactor volume. The granules do not contain an organic carrier material, such as sand or basalt.

In the sludge bed, the conversion from COD to biogas takes place. In both reactor types, the mixture of sludge, biogas, and water is separated into three phases by means of a specially designed three-phase, separator (or settler) at the top of the reactor. The purified effluent leaves the reactor via effluent laundries, biogas is collected at the top, and sludge settles back into the active volume of the reactor.

One of the most important design parameters for both types of reactors is the maximum allowable superficial upflow liquid velocity in the settler. Upflow velocities in excess of this maximum design value result in granular sludge being washed out of the reactor. The Biobed EGSB settler allows a substantially higher upstream velocity (10 m/hour) than the Biothane UASB settler (1.0 m/hour).

Uasb Reactor Theas
Figure 15 A cross-section of the Biothane UASB reactor (from Ref. 14).
Plan Settler Uasb Reactor

Figure 16 A cross-section of the Biogas EGSB reactor (from Ref. 14).

Another important design parameter is the maximum COD load allowed. The Biobed EGSB process operates under substantial higher COD loads (30 kg/m3-day) than the Biothane UASB process (10 kg/m3-day). The result of this is that for a given COD load, the Biobed EGSB reactor volume is smaller than for a Biothane UASB reactor. Biothane UASB reactors are typically rectangular or square, with an average height of 6.0 m and are usually constructed of concrete. Biobed EGSB reactors have a substantially smaller footprint. These high and narrow tanks are built in FRP (fiber glass reinforced plastic) or stainless steel and have a typical height of 12-18 m. The height of the granular sludge bed in the Biothane UASB reactor varies between 1 and 2 m and in the Biobed EGSB between 7 and 14 m. A Biobed EGSB reactor is normally built as a completely closed reactor resulting in a system with zero odor emission. Additionally, a Biobed EGSB reactor can be operated under overpressure, thereby making any use of gasholders and biogas compressors redundant. The general differences between the processes are shown in Table 10.

Wastewater in the potato processing industry contains substantial amounts of suspended solids. The Biothane UASB process is characterized by longer hydraulic retention times than the Biobed EGSB process. As a consequence, use of the Biothane UASB process results in a greater removal of suspended solids and therefore higher overall COD removal efficiencies. The Biobed EGSB process has been designed mainly for removal of soluble COD. Therefore, the use of Biobed EGSB in the potato processing industry is emphasized for those applications where the anaerobic effluent will be discharged to a sewer or to a final aerobic post-treatment.

Thermophilic UASB Reactors. In general, hot wastewater streams discharge from food industries including vegetable processing. These streams are generated from high temperature unit operations and are highly concentrated due to enhanced dissolution of organic material at

Table 10 Comparison of the Main Characteristic Parameters of Biothane UASB and Biobed EGSB (Source: Ref. 14)



Biothane UASB Biobed EGSB


kg COD/











Vliquid settler




Vliquid reactor




VBas reactor




elevated temperatures. Anaerobic treatment, especially the thermophilic process, offers an attractive alternative for the treatment of high-strength, hot wastewater streams [46].

In the thermophilic process, the most obvious benefits compared with the mesophilic anaerobic process involve increased loading rate and the elimination of cooling before treatment. Furthermore, the heat of the wastewater could be exploited for post-treatment, which, for example, if realized and mixed with sewage water could assist in obtaining nitrification with a normally low sewage temperature (less than 10°C) [46].

Loading rates of up to 80 kg COD/m3-day and more have been reached in laboratory-scale thermophilic reactors treating volatile fatty acids (VFA) and glucose [47,48], acetate and sucrose [49,50] and thermomechanical pulping white water [51].

As mentioned before, during the past half century, anaerobic treatment of food processing wastewaters has been widely studied and applied using mesophilic processes. In many cases, compared with single aerobic treatment, anaerobic treatment of food industry wastewaters is economical due to decreased excess sludge generation, decreased aeration requirement, compact installation, and methane energy generation. Thermophilic anaerobic treatment of food industry wastewaters, such as vinasse [52] and beer brewing [53] wastewaters, has been studied on laboratory and pilot scales.

The removal efficiencies of pollutants in these thermophilic reactors have been found to be very satisfactory. For example, in UASB reactors treating brewery wastewater and volatile fatty acids (VFA) at 55°C with loading rates of 20-40 kg COD/m3-day, the COD removals reached over 80% in 50-60 days.

Thermophilic anaerobic processes have been used for the treatment of high solids content in vegetable waste (slop) from distillery [24-29 kg total solids (TS)/m3] [54] and potato sludge [42 kg suspended solids (SS)/m3] [55]. This technology has also been applied on a laboratory scale for the treatment of vegetable processing wastewaters in UASB reactors at 55°C, where the wastewater streams result from steam peeling and blanching of different processed vegetables (carrot, potato, and swede) [46]. For further information about this application, refer to the case studies.

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