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Feasibility of hydraulic separation in a novel anaerobic–anoxic upflow reactor for biological nutrient removal


This contribution deals with a novel anaerobic–anoxic reactor for biological nutrient removal (BNR) from wastewater, termed AnoxAn. In the AnoxAn reactor, the anaerobic and anoxic zones for phosphate removal and denitrification are integrated in a single continuous upflow sludge blanket reactor, aiming at high compactness and efficiency. Its application is envisaged in those cases where retrofitting of existing wastewater treatment plants for BNR, or the construction of new ones, is limited by the available surface area. The environmental conditions are vertically divided up inside the reactor with the anaerobic zone at the bottom and the anoxic zone above. The capability of the AnoxAn configuration to establish two hydraulically separated zones inside the single reactor was assessed by means of hydraulic characterization experiments and model simulations. Residence time distribution (RTD) experiments in clean water were performed in a bench-scale (48.4 L) AnoxAn prototype. The required hydraulic separation between the anaerobic and anoxic zones, as well as adequate mixing in the individual zones, were obtained through selected mixing devices. The observed behaviour was described by a hydraulic model consisting of continuous stirred tank reactors and plug-flow reactors. The impact of the denitrification process in the anoxic zone on the hydraulic separation was subsequently evaluated through model simulations. The desired hydraulic behaviour proved feasible, involving little mixing between the anaerobic and anoxic zones (mixing flowrate 40.2 % of influent flowrate) and negligible nitrate concentration in the anaerobic zone (less than 0.1 mgN L−1) when denitrification was considered.

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The Spanish Ministries of Education and Science and of Economy and Competitiveness funded our research activity through the projects NOVEDAR (CSD2007-00055), HIBREDAR (CTM2008-06877-C02-01_TECNO), and PBi2 (CTM2012-36227), the latter being co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund. The authors also thank Amaya Lobo and Claudio Gómez for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Rubén Díez-Montero.

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Díez-Montero, R., De Florio, L., González-Viar, M. et al. Feasibility of hydraulic separation in a novel anaerobic–anoxic upflow reactor for biological nutrient removal. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng 38, 93–103 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00449-014-1247-9

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  • Wastewater treatment
  • Denitrification
  • Tracer tests
  • Hydrodynamic behaviour
  • Mathematical modelling
  • Numerical simulation