Monitoring the Stability of Anaerobic Digestion Using a Novel On-line Bicarbonate Alkalinity Monitor

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In many biological reactors' bicarbonate ions are the major species determining pH buffering capacity, or alkalinity. In anaerobic digesters the bicarbonate levels should be within 10 to 50mM to ensure stable operation. Bicarbonate concentration in wastewater treatment processes is routinely measured off-line by titration with standard acid to a set pH value. However along with the bicarbonate/carbonate system, the phosphate, ammonia, sulphides and volatile fatty acids systems are present in anaerobic process. These systems can exert a significant influence on the accuracy of bicarbonate titration's to a set pH.An overload of 4.7 to 13.6 kgCODm-3d-1 1 administered to a 5m3 pilot scale anaerobic filter reactor showed that bicarbonate alkalinity, measured off-line by titration responded rapidly to the organic overload, decreasing by 10% after only 1 hour of the overload initiation. The propionic acid concentration (often regarded as the best indicator of instability in anaerobic digestion) increased from 170ppm to 190 ppm in the same period, which corresponds to an increase of 12%. At present the use of anaerobic digestion as a waste treatment method is partly limited because of the lack of reliable control procedures. This thesis introduces a simple on-line instrument for direct determination of bicarbonate concentration especially for automatic control of anaerobic digesters. The proposed method is based on a continuous flow rate measurement of carbon dioxide evolved from a continuous stream of sampled (<15cm3min-1 ) solution after saturation with gaseous C02 and subsequent acidification with excess acid. Measurement of bicarbonate in this way eliminates the interferences of the phosphate, ammonia, sulphides and volatile fatty acids systems and removes the need for a pH probe which are subject to fouling.
    Date of Award1995
    Original languageEnglish

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