A systematic approach for selecting an optimal strategy for controlling VOCs emissions in a petrochemical wastewater treatment plant

  • Ali Behnami
  • Khaled Zoroufchi Benis
  • Mohammad ShakerkhatibiEmail author
  • Siavash Derafshi
  • Mir Mohammad Chavoshbashi
Original Paper


This study assessed the fate of benzene, toluene, and styrene in a full-scale petrochemical wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) with respect to the selection of an efficient and cost-effective control strategy. To prepare input parameters for TOXCHEM, wastewater samples were collected from the inlet of treatment units. Subsequently, the resultant emission rates were applied in AERMOD to study the dispersion patterns of the target volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Based on the TOXCHEM results, the overall emission of benzene, toluene, and styrene was 123,935 g/day, of which 73.4, 13.3, and 13.4% were benzene, toluene, and styrene, respectively. The results indicated that up to 99.5% of the target VOCs were removed from wastewater by volatilization and biodegradation mechanisms. Also, more than 85% of the VOCs emission occurred from the primary treatment units (American Petroleum Institute oil separator, equalization basin, and dissolved air flotation system). In some cases, the concentration distribution profiles resulting from AERMOD showed higher values than EPA reference concentrations (RfC) around the study area. The most affected area was near the WWTP with maximum 1-h concentrations of 8166, 1267, and 1228 μg/m3 of benzene, toluene, and styrene, respectively. Based on the modeling results, the most applicable and available methods for separating and ultimately disposing of VOCs were investigated and compared with the aim of reducing emission rates to meet ambient air quality standards. The results revealed that steam stripping is the most efficient and cost-effective VOCs control strategy in the studied plant. Moreover, thermal incineration was marked as the first choice for ultimate disposal of the contaminated air streams.


VOCs Petrochemical wastewater Modeling TOXCHEM AERMOD 



The authors would like to express their sincere appreciation for the help and support provided by Tabriz Petrochemical Company. The financial support provided by Tabriz University of Medical Sciences is gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Abdullahi ME, Hassan MAA, Noor ZZ, Ibrahim RKR (2014) Application of a packed column air stripper in the removal of volatile organic compounds from wastewater. Rev Chem Eng 30(5):431–451Google Scholar
  2. Abdul-Wahab S, Al-Rawas G, Ali S, Fadlallah S, Al-Dhamri H (2017) Atmospheric dispersion modeling of CO2 emissions from a cement plant’s sources. Clean Technol Environ Policy 19(6):1621–1638Google Scholar
  3. Aliabadi M, Aroujalian A, Raisi A (2012) Removal of styrene from petrochemical wastewater using pervaporation process. Desalination 284(2012):116–121Google Scholar
  4. Aliyu AS, Ramli AT, Saleh MA (2014) Environmental impact assessment of a new nuclear power plant (NPP) based on atmospheric dispersion modeling. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess 28(7):1897–1911Google Scholar
  5. APHA (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edn. American Public Health Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Baawain M, Al-Mamun A, Omidvarborna H, Al-Jabri A (2017) Assessment of hydrogen sulfide emission from a sewage treatment plant using AERMOD. Environ Monit Assess 189(6):263Google Scholar
  7. Banerjee S, Howard PH (1988) Improved estimation of solubility and partitioning through correction of UNIFAC-derived activity coefficients. Environ Sci Technol 22(7):839–841Google Scholar
  8. Behnami A, Farajzadeh D, Isazadeh S, Zoroufchi Benis K, Shakerkhatibi M, Shiri Z, Ghorghanlu S, Yadeghari A (2018) Diversity of bacteria in a full-scale petrochemical wastewater treatment plant experiencing stable hydrocarbon removal. J Water Process Eng 23(2018):285–291Google Scholar
  9. Buxton MJ, Drummond MF, Van Hout BA, Prince RL, Sheldon TA, Szucs T, Vray M (1997) Modelling in ecomomic evaluation: an unavoidable fact of life. Health Econ 6(3):217–227Google Scholar
  10. Capelli L, Sironi S, Del Rosso R, Céntola P (2009) Predicting odour emissions from wastewater treatment plants by means of odour emission factors. Water Res 43(7):1977–1985Google Scholar
  11. Cetin E, Odabasi M, Seyfioglu R (2003) Ambient volatile organic compound (VOC) concentrations around a petrochemical complex and a petroleum refinery. Sci Total Environ 312(1):103–112Google Scholar
  12. Chang S, Lu C, Huang H, Hsu S (2015) Removal of VOCs emitted from p-xylene liquid storage tanks by a full-scale compost biofilter. Process Saf Environ Prot 93((Supplement C)):218–226Google Scholar
  13. Chen H, Carter KE (2017) Modeling potential occupational inhalation exposures and associated risks of toxic organics from chemical storage tanks used in hydraulic fracturing using AERMOD. Environ Pollut 224((Supplement C)):300–309Google Scholar
  14. Chen WH, Yang WB, Yuan CS, Yang JC, Zhao QL (2013) Influences of aeration and biological treatment on the fates of aromatic VOCs in wastewater treatment processes. Aerosol Air Qual Res 13(1):225–236Google Scholar
  15. Chen MH, Yuan CS, Wang LC (2014) Source identification of VOCs in a petrochemical complex by applying open-path fourier transform infrared spectrometry. Aerosol Air Qual Res 14(6):1630–1638Google Scholar
  16. Chen WH, Lin SJ, Lee FC, Chen MH, Yeh TY, Kao CM (2017) Comparing volatile organic compound emissions during equalization in wastewater treatment between the flux-chamber and mass-transfer methods. Process Saf Environ Prot 109((Supplement C)):410–419Google Scholar
  17. Cheng WH, Chou MS (2003) VOC emission characteristics of petrochemical wastewater treatment facilities in southern Taiwan. J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng 38(11):2521–2535Google Scholar
  18. Cheng WH, Hsu SK, Chou MS (2008) Volatile organic compound emissions from wastewater treatment plants in Taiwan: legal regulations and costs of control. J Environ Manage 88(4):1485–1494Google Scholar
  19. Chirila E, Dobrinas S, Paunescu E, Stanciu G, Draghici C (2011) Determination of aromatic volatile compounds in petrochemical wastewater. Environ Eng Manag J 10(8):1081–1085Google Scholar
  20. Cho WC, Poo KM, Mohamed HO, Kim TN, Kim YS, Hwang MH, Jung DW, Chae KJ (2018) Non-selective rapid electro-oxidation of persistent, refractory VOCs in industrial wastewater using a highly catalytic and dimensionally stable IrPd/Ti composite electrode. Chemosphere 206(2018):483–490Google Scholar
  21. Cumming H, Rücker C (2017) Octanol-water partition coefficient measurement by a simple 1H NMR method. ACS Omega 2(9):6244–6249Google Scholar
  22. Dou B, Hu Q, Li J, Qiao S, Hao Z (2011) Adsorption performance of VOCs in ordered mesoporous silicas with different pore structures and surface chemistry. J Hazard Mater 186(2):1615–1624Google Scholar
  23. Escalas A, Guadayol JM, Cortina M, Rivera J, Caixach J (2003) Time and space patterns of volatile organic compounds in a sewage treatment plant. Water Res 37(16):3913–3920Google Scholar
  24. Fang C, Khor SL (1989) Reduction of volatile organic compounds in aqueous solutions through air stripping and gas-phase carbon adsorption. Environ Prog Sustain Energy 8(4):270–278Google Scholar
  25. Fatehifar E, Kahforoshan D, Khazini L, Soltanmohammadzadeh J, Sattar H (2008) Estimation of VOC emission from wastewater treatment unit in a petrochemical plant using emission factors. In: WSEAS conferences Cantabria, Spain, SantanderGoogle Scholar
  26. Govind R, Lai L, Dobbs R (1991) Integrated model for predicting the fate of organics in wastewater treatment plants. Environ Prog Sustain Energy 10(1):13–23Google Scholar
  27. Guo H, Lee SC, Chan LY, Li WM (2004) Risk assessment of exposure to volatile organic compounds in different indoor environments. Environ Res 94(1):57–66Google Scholar
  28. Hamoda MF (2006) Air pollutants emissions from waste treatment and disposal facilities. J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng 41(1):77–85Google Scholar
  29. Hansen KC, Zhou Z, Yaws CL, Aminabhavi TM (1993) Determination of Henry’s law constants of organics in dilute aqueous solutions. J Chem Eng Data 38(4):546–550Google Scholar
  30. Hassan SQ, Timberlake DL (1992) Steam stripping and batch distillation for the removal and/or recovery of volatile organic compounds from industrial wastes. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 42(7):936–943Google Scholar
  31. Hwang Y-L, Keller GE, Olson JD (1992) Steam stripping for removal of organic pollutants from water I: Stripping effectiveness and stripper design. Ind Eng Chem Res 31(7):1753–1759Google Scholar
  32. Kemp J, Zytner R, Sterne L, Rittmann B (2002) Measuring and modelling VOC biotransformation rates. Environ Technol 23(5):547–551Google Scholar
  33. Khan FI, Ghoshal A (2000) Removal of volatile organic compounds from polluted air. J Loss Prevet Proc Ind 13(6):527–545Google Scholar
  34. Leong LY, Regan MM, Kuo JF, Wong E (1992) An overview of the pooled emission estimation program (PEEP) for POTWs. Environ Prog Sustain Energy 11(4):278–287Google Scholar
  35. Li GW, Hu HY, Hao JM, Fujie K (2002) Use of biological activated carbon to treat mixed gas of toluene and benzene in biofilter. Environ Technol 23(4):467–477Google Scholar
  36. Liu Y, Deng J, Xie S, Wang Z, Dai H (2016) Catalytic removal of volatile organic compounds using ordered porous transition metal oxide and supported noble metal catalysts. Chin J Catal 37(8):1193–1205Google Scholar
  37. Melcer H, Bell J, Thompson D, Yendt C, Kemp J, Steel P (1994) Modeling volatile organic contaminants’ fate in wastewater treatment plants. J Environ Eng 120(3):588–609Google Scholar
  38. Moretti EC (2002) Reduce VOC and HAP emissions. Chem Eng Prog 98(6):30–40Google Scholar
  39. Mudliar S, Giri B, Padoley K, Satpute D, Dixit R, Bhatt P, Pandey R, Juwarkar A, Vaidya A (2010) Bioreactors for treatment of VOCs and odours—a review. J Environ Manage 91(5):1039–1054Google Scholar
  40. Oda T (2003) Non-thermal plasma processing for environmental protection: decomposition of dilute VOCs in air. J Electrostat 57(3):293–311Google Scholar
  41. Ortiz-Del Castillo J, Guerrero-Medina G, Lopez-Toledo J, Rocha J (2000) Design of steam-stripping columns for removal of volatile organic compounds from water using random and structured packings. Ind Eng Chem Res 39(3):731–739Google Scholar
  42. Padhi SK, Gokhale S (2014) Biological oxidation of gaseous VOCs—rotating biological contactor a promising and eco-friendly technique. J Environ Chem Eng 2(4):2085–2102Google Scholar
  43. Parmar GR, Rao N (2008) Emerging control technologies for volatile organic compounds. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 39(1):41–78Google Scholar
  44. Rajai BH, Kansara AM, Singh PS (2016) Treatment of wastewater containing volatile organics using hollow fibre PDMS-polysulfone membrane system: recovery of organics and water reclamation. Curr Sci 111(3):517–523Google Scholar
  45. Ray M, Chen JP, Wang LK, Pehkonen SO (2007) Handbook of environmental engineering, advanced physicochemical treatment processes. Humana Press Inc., Totowa, p 07512Google Scholar
  46. Refsgaard JC, van der Sluijs JP, Højberg AL, Vanrolleghem PA (2007) Uncertainty in the environmental modelling process—a framework and guidance. Environ Model Softw 22(11):1543–1556Google Scholar
  47. Schlegelmilch M, Streese J, Stegmann R (2005) Odour management and treatment technologies: an overview. Waste Manage 25(9):928–939Google Scholar
  48. Shakerkhatibi M, Monajemi P, Jafarzadeh M, Mokhtari S, Farshchian M (2012) Feasibility study on EO/EG wastewater treatment using pilot scale SBR. Int J Environ Res 7(1):195–204Google Scholar
  49. Shakerkhatibi M, Mosaferi M, Zorufchi Benis K, Akbari Z (2016) Performance evaluation of a full-scale ABS resin manufacturing wastewater treatment plant: a case study in Tabriz petrochemical complex. Environ Health Eng Manag J 3(3):151–158Google Scholar
  50. Shim WG, Lee JW, Moon H (2006) Adsorption equilibrium and column dynamics of VOCs on MCM-48 depending on pelletizing pressure. Microporous Mesoporous Mater 88(1):112–125Google Scholar
  51. Subrahmanyam C, Renken A, Kiwi-Minsker L (2007) Novel catalytic non-thermal plasma reactor for the abatement of VOCs. Chem Eng J 134(1):78–83Google Scholar
  52. Tata P, Witherspoon J, Lue-Hing C (2003) VOC emissions from wastewater treatment plants: characterization, control, and compliance. CRC Press, Boa RatonGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomas B, German GS, Hande Y, Serge R, Luis DS (2016) Best available techniques (BAT) reference document for common waste water and waste gas treatment/management systems in the chemical sector, Publications Office of the European UnionGoogle Scholar
  54. Toth AJ, Mizsey P (2015) Comparison of air and steam stripping: removal of organic halogen compounds from process wastewaters. Int J Environ Sci Technol 12(4):1321–1330Google Scholar
  55. Urashima K, Jen-Shih C (2000) Removal of volatile organic compounds from air streams and industrial flue gases by non-thermal plasma technology. IEEE Trans Dielectr Electr Insul 7(5):602–614Google Scholar
  56. US-EPA (1988) Industrial wastewater steam stripper performance, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and StandardsGoogle Scholar
  57. US-EPA (1990) Industrial wastewater volatile organic compound emissions, background information for BACT/LAER determinations, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and StandardsGoogle Scholar
  58. US-EPA (1991) Air stripping of aqueous solutions, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Emergency and Remedial ResponseGoogle Scholar
  59. US-EPA (1992) Control of volatile organic compound emissions from industrial wastewater, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Office of Air and RadiationGoogle Scholar
  60. US-EPA (1994) Air emissions models for waste and wastewater, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and StandardsGoogle Scholar
  61. US-EPA (2007) Reference concentration for chronic inhalation exposure (RfC), IRIS summary, integrated risk information system, United States Environmental Protection AgencyGoogle Scholar
  62. US-NLM (2018) Toxicology data network. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed July 2018
  63. Van der Vaart D, Vatvuk W, Wehe A (1991a) Thermal and catalytic incinerators for the control of VOCs. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 41(1):92–98Google Scholar
  64. Van der Vaart D, Vatavuk W, Wehe A (1991b) The cost estimation of thermal and catalytic incinerators for the control of VOCs. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 41(4):497–501Google Scholar
  65. Van Groenestijn JW, Hesselink PG (1993) Biotechniques for air pollution control. Biodegradation 4(4):283–301Google Scholar
  66. Wang CH, Lin SS, Chen CL, Weng HS (2006) Performance of the supported copper oxide catalysts for the catalytic incineration of aromatic hydrocarbons. Chemosphere 64(3):503–509Google Scholar
  67. Wiwanitkit V (2008) Estimating cancer risk due to benzene exposure in some urban areas in Bangkok. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess 22(1):135–137Google Scholar
  68. Wu BZ, Feng TZ, Sree U, Chiu KH, Lo JG (2006) Sampling and analysis of volatile organics emitted from wastewater treatment plant and drain system of an industrial science park. Anal Chim Acta 576(1):100–111Google Scholar
  69. Xie B, Liang S, Tang Y, Mi W, Xu Y (2009) Petrochemical wastewater odor treatment by biofiltration. Bioresour Technol 100(7):2204–2209Google Scholar
  70. Zhang K (2010) Characterization and uncertainty analysis of VOCs emissions from industrial wastewater treatment plants. Environ Prog Sustain Energy 29(3):265–271Google Scholar
  71. Zhang Z, Jiang Z, Shangguan W (2016) Low-temperature catalysis for VOCs removal in technology and application: A state-of-the-art review. Catal Today 264((Supplement C)):270–278Google Scholar
  72. Zoroufchi Benis K, Fatehifar E, Shafiei S, Keivani Nahr F, Purfarhadi Y (2016a) Design of a sensitive air quality monitoring network using an integrated optimization approach. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess 30(3):779–793Google Scholar
  73. Zoroufchi Benis K, Shakerkhatibi M, Yousefi R, Kahforoushan D, Derafshi S (2016b) Emission patterns of acrylonitrile and styrene around an industrial wastewater treatment plant in Iran. Int J Environ Sci Technol 13(10):2353–2362Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ali Behnami
    • 1
  • Khaled Zoroufchi Benis
    • 2
  • Mohammad Shakerkhatibi
    • 3
    Email author
  • Siavash Derafshi
    • 4
  • Mir Mohammad Chavoshbashi
    • 4
  1. 1.Student Research CommitteeTabriz University of Medical SciencesTabrizIran
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Health and Environment Research CenterTabriz University of Medical SciencesTabrizIran
  4. 4.Health, Safety and Environment OfficeTabriz Petrochemical ComplexTabrizIran

Personalised recommendations