Detection of acidification limit in anaerobic membrane bioreactors at ambient temperature

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


High-volume, low-strength industrial wastewaters constitute a large potential for biogas production, which could be realized by membrane bioreactors operating at the ambient temperature of the wastewater. However, the start-up of low-temperature anaerobic processes using unadapted inoculum can be sensitive to overloading, which results in acidification. This study assessed if a novel acidification limit test can be used to identify stable organic loading rates as well as process over-loading. The test is based on easy-to-apply batch experiments for determination of the hydrolysis rate constant and the specific methanogenic activity of the acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic pathways. For evaluation, two anaerobic membrane bioreactors, treating synthetic dairy wastewater at an ambient temperature of 24 °C, were used with a slow or a rapid start-up regime, respectively. Tests for hydrolysis rate and methanogenic activity were performed throughout the experiment and were used to calculate acidification limits for each system throughout the start-up. The acidification limit test was able to successfully identify both stable operation of one reactor and process failure of the other reactor as the organic loading rate increased. The reactor failure was caused by over-loading the acetotrophic pathway and coincided with microbial changes observed in real-time PCR and moving window analysis. Overall, the acidification limit tests seem promising as an easy applicable method for estimating what organic loading rate can be utilized, without risking acidification of anaerobic systems.


External organisations
  • Ghent University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Energy Systems


  • Acidification limit, Anaerobic digestion, Anaerobic membrane bioreactor, Hydrolysis rate, Specific methanogenic activity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch