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A comparative study of autotrophic and heterotrophic denitrification using sulphide and acetate



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Sulphide containing streams must be treated before releases to environment due to the toxicity, corrosivity and unpleasant odour of sulphide. Anaerobic chemolithotrophic desulphurization under denitrifying conditions is the preferred process when compared with others like physicochemical processes, photoautotrophic and aerobic chemolithotrophic desulphurizations as the catalysts, high pressure, high temperature, light energy and oxygen are not needed. Another main advantage of this process is that the denitrification can be achieved with desulphurization simultaneously. In this work, the anaerobic chemolithotrophic desulphurization under denitrifying conditions (autotrophic denitrification) and heterotrophic denitrification processes were studied. Desulphurization under denitrifying conditions was studied in continuous stirred tank bioreactors (CSTB), while batch, continuous stirred tank and biofilm reactors were used to investigate the heterotrophic denitrification. The kinetics of desulphurization, autotrophic and heterotrophic denitrifications obtained in different systems and under various conditions were compared. Using three different feed sulphide concentrations in the range 10-20 mM, a linear relationship between sulphide loading rates and sulphide removal rates was observed in continuous stirred tank reactors, regardless of initial sulphide concentration. The highest sulphide removal rate of 1.79 mM h-1 was obtained in CSTB fed with 15 mM sulphide. In these systems cell washout occurred at lower dilution rates as sulphide concentration in the feed was increased from 10 to 20 mM. The ratio of sulphide to nitrate loading rates influenced the composition of the sulphur oxidation end products where higher ratios favored the formation of elemental sulphur and lower ratios promoted the formation of sulphate. In the batch system initial concentration of nitrate (5 to 50 mM) did not have a notable effect on denitrification process. Nitrate was converted to nitrite first and the produced nitrite was then converted to other gaseous end products such as nitrogen. Increases of temperature in the range of 15 to 35ºC increased the bacterial growth rate significantly with the value of apparent activation energy for specific growth rate being 60.6 kJ mol-1. Using the experimental data generated in two continuous bioreactors operated with feeds containing 10 and 30 mM nitrate biokinetic coefficients for heterotrophic denitrification were determined. The values of µm, Ks, ms, YMX/S, kd for initial nitrate concentrations of 10 and 30 mM were 0.087 and 0.082 h-1, 2.01 and 5.27 mM (NO3-), 1.441 and 1.096 mM (NO3-) (g biomass) -1 h-1, 0.011 and 0.013 g (biomass) (mM NO3-)-1, and 0.016 and 0.014 h-1 respectively. In the biofilm system the linear relationship between nitrate loading rate and nitrate removal rate was observed again for the whole range of tested nitrate loading rate range (up to 183 mM h-1), regardless of the approach used to increase the loading rate (increases in feed flow rate or feed nitrate concentration). The highest nitrate removal rate was 183 mM h-1 which was around 194 times higher than that achieved in the continuous stirred tank bioreactor with free cells. A comparison of the autotrophic and heterotrophic denitrification processes studied in the CSTB system indicated that in case of autotrophic denitrification wash-out occurred suddenly and at a much lower loading rate of 0.75 to 0.96 mM (NO3-) h-1 for initial sulphide concentrations 10 to 20 mM, while in case of heterotrophic denitrification increase of nitrate loading rate did not have such a drastic effect and removal rate of nitrate decreased slowly with the increases of nitrate loading rate. A comparison of the kinetic data obtained in the biofilm reactor in the present work and those generated for autotrophic denitrification in an earlier work conducted at University of Saskatchewan (Tang, 2008) showed that the dependency of nitrate removal rate on its loading rate were linear in either case and somewhat similar. However, the maximum nitrate removal rate obtained in the heterotrophic system (183 mM h-1) was much higher than that obtained in the autotrophic system with sulphide.



Desulphurization, Denitrification, Heterotrophic, Autotrophic, CSTB, Biofilm reactor



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Environmental Engineering


Environmental Engineering


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