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Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

A study of industrial anaerobic treatment of opaque beer brewery


wastewater in a tropical climate using a full-scale UASB
reactor seeded with activated sludge
W. Parawira a , I. Kudita b , M.G. Nyandoroh b , R. Zvauya a,
a

Department of Biochemistry, University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
b Chibuku Breweries, P.O. Box 3304, Southerton, Harare, Zimbabwe
Received 1 August 2003; accepted 17 January 2004

Abstract
A full-scale upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor treating traditional opaque beer brewery wastewater recently installed at an
opaque beer factory was studied for 2 years. The total volume of the reactor was 500 m3 and the hydraulic retention time was approximately 24 h.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the performance of the UASB reactor during anaerobic digestion of opaque beer brewery wastewater in
terms of treatment efficiency. The untreated opaque beer wastewater has high solids content and high organic matter, which need pretreatment
before it is discharged into municipal sewage treatment works. The UASB reactor enables the brewery to meet the requirements of the
wastewater discharged into municipal sewerage system of Harare. The average percentage reduction in Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
was 57%. The total and settleable solids were also reduced by 50 and 90%, respectively. The effluent from the UASB reactor contained higher
orthophosphates and nitrogen levels than the influent leading to the accumulation of these nutrients in the system. These results indicated that
the UASB plant was effective for treating opaque beer brewery wastewater at ambient temperature to meet the quality of effluent that can be
discharged into public water works.
2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Anaerobic digestion; UASB; Opaque beer brewery wastewater; Chemical Oxygen Demand

1. Introduction
The opaque beer brewery industry uses large volumes of
water and discharges large volumes of effluent throughout
the year, which are highly polluting. In Zimbabwe, there are
20 opaque beer breweries that produce over 420 million litres
of opaque beer each year. The opaque beer brewing involves
the blending of sorghum malt, and maize grits, followed by
its subsequent fermentation with yeast. Essentially the process involves lactic acid fermentation as well as alcoholic
fermentation. The beer is marketed and consumed whilst
still actively fermenting. The brewing process employs a
number of batch-type operations in processing raw materials to the final beer product. In the process large quantities
of water are used for the production of beer itself, as well as
for general washing of floors, and cleaning the brewhouse,

Corresponding author. Tel.: +263-430-8047; fax: +263-430-8046.


E-mail address: rzvauya@yahoo.co.uk (R. Zvauya).

0032-9592/$ see front matter 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.procbio.2004.01.036

cellars, packaging and cleaning in place, after each batch is


completed. Due to the opaque beer brewerys effluent characteristic high organic content and acidic nature, it has the
potential to cause considerable environmental problems [1].
Such industrial effluents may result in reduction of the efficiency of the municipal treatment works [2]. The brewery
effluents may affect water quality in many ways, including
organic matter increase, and resultant increase in Biological
Oxygen Demand (BOD5 ) and COD. The high organic loads
in the wastewater arises from dissolved carbohydrates, the
alcohol from beer wastes, and a high content of suspended
solids, e.g. spent maize, malt, and yeast. In order to control pollution and protect the environment, brewery effluent
containing high concentrations of organic matter cannot be
discharged to sewers and watercourses. The municipal authority in Harare is placing severe restrictions on the quality
of effluent which industry can discharge into their municipal system, which makes on-site pretreatment necessary for
some types of effluent. The brewery effluent is composed of
wastewaters from cleaning tanks, fermentation tanks, floors

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W. Parawira et al. / Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

etc. [3]. A highly polluted effluent will reduce the capacity


of the municipal wastewater treatment plant considerably
and even overload such a plant.
The implementation of low-cost, efficient, simple mitigation measures is required to enable the traditional opaque
beer brewery industry to contribute to water conservation.
For the breweries, there are aerobic and anaerobic biological treatment options. Zvauya et al. [1] reported the
possibility of using thermophilic aerobic treatment of traditional opaque beer brewery wastewater. However, brewery
effluent is categorised as medium-to-high-strength organic
wastewater and requires an intensive amount of energy for
aeration. Another mitigating factor is the large amount of
waste sludge generated from these aerobic treatment processes, which also needs to be handled and disposed of and
this increases the cost of operation of the treatment system.
Austermann-Haun and Seyfried [4] reported that UASB
plant at a brewery proved to be environmentally safer and
more efficient than a high rate aerobic pretreatment plant.
On the other hand, anaerobic digestion is a simple and reliable option with several advantages. The advantages of the
process include the fact that less energy is required because
no aeration is needed, the organic matter in the influent is
partly converted to methane, which can be used for energy
production, and less excess biomass and sludge are formed
and therefore less disposal cost [5,6]. During anaerobic
digestion organic pollutants are degraded by a consortia of
microbial populations through multiple degradation steps
such as hydrolysis/fermentation, acetogenesis and methanogenesis [7]. These anaerobic microbes, including fermentative bacteria, acetogenic bacteria and methanogens usually
form a syntrophic relation [8]. Anaerobic digestion enables
industry to comply with the stricter pollution control regulations, and also to satisfy the search for greater efficiency,
better economy and the use of natural energy sources [9].
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the
application of anaerobic digestion to brewery wastewater
since the nature and strengths of the brewery wastewater
often provides ideal conditions for the digester operations.
However, there are problems associated with the start-up
and operation of anaerobic treatment process due to the complexity of the process that is carried out by a consortium
of unidentified and interdependent microorganisms, which
makes the process unstable and difficult to monitor. Given
the particularly complex and fluctuating nature of the brewery wastewater, it is clear that anaerobic digestion could be
a sensitive to the changes in wastewater composition. Also
the anaerobic treatment of many industrial effluents with
low pH and high organic load has always been problematic
as compared to other wastes of different origin, e.g. municipal wastes [10]. UASB reactors need not be unreliable
if properly operated, monitored and controlled. The UASB
wastewater (pre-) treatment systems represent proven sustainable technology for a wide range of very different industrial effluents [1114]. The onus, therefore, rests both on the
designer to provide reliable control arrangements and on the

operator to devise overall monitoring and control strategies


to minimise an overload risk.
Despite the fact that the opaque beer brewing industry
is big business in most African countries, there are very
few breweries that are attempting to treat their waste. Brewery effluent treatment work has been largely on clear beer
wastewater [5]. There are no published scientific reports of
anaerobic digestion of opaque beer brewery wastewater using the anaerobic digestion technology to the best of our
knowledge. The aim of this study was to evaluate the anaerobic digestion of opaque beer brewery wastewater from the
largest opaque beer brewery in Harare, Zimbabwe using a
recently installed UASB reactor.

2. Materials and methods


2.1. The reactor system used
The industrial full-scale UASB reactor or clarigester at an
opaque beer brewery in Harare was used in the study. The
UASB reactor was constructed of concrete. The volume of
the UASB reactor was 500 m3 based on the average organic
loading rate of 6 kg COD/m3 per day. The effluent treatment plant consisted of a receiving tank, screens (0.5 mm
mesh), balancing tank and the UASB reactor. The screens
were used to remove heavy suspended solids. The balancing or buffering tank was used to balance the variations in
organic loads, pH and flow resulting from batch operation
of the brewing process as well as the dilution of toxic and
inhibiting compounds from the processing plant. The nitrogen and phosphate nutrients supplements were added into
the balancing tank in the form of urea and triple super phosphate. The nutrients were added to obtain a COD:N:P ratio
of 100:5:1. The wastewater was acidic (pH 3.36.3) and thus
soda ash was also added to adjust the influent pH to neutral.
The wastewater emanating from the balancing tank was then
fed into the bottom of the UASB reactor and the effluent
discharged from the top together with the gas. The digester
was originally seeded using a mixture of active municipal
sludge, which was maintained at a temperature of approximately 37 2 C for 3 months with intermittent feeding
with brewery wastewater to acclimatise the bacteria to the
feed substrate. The retention time was approximately 24 h
although it varied with influent flow. The performance of the
UASB system was monitored by measurement of the COD,
and permanganate value (PV) in the influent and the effluent
over a period of 2 years.
2.2. Analytical methods
Chemical analyses were conducted on both the influent
and effluent composite samples collected after two days
throughout every month after commissioning of the plant.
Samples were collected every hour over a 24-h period and
the measurement of the parameters was done to determine

W. Parawira et al. / Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

595

Table 1
Monitoring programme employed in this study
Monitoring point

Type of sample

Analysis

Frequency

Brewery wastewater
(raw wastewater, receiving tank)
Influent to UASB
(from balancing tank)
Effluent from UASB

Composite (24 h)

3 per week

Grab/composite (24 h)

COD, PV, Total Kejdahl Nitrogen, phosphates, pH,


total solids, settleable solids
COD, PV, pH, total solids, settleable solids, nitrogen, phosphates

3 per week

Grab/composite (24 h)

COD, PV, pH, total solids, settleable solids, nitrogen, phosphates

3 per week

the overall parameter profile of the total brewery effluent


for that day. The monitoring and reporting programme followed in this study was as shown below (Table 1). The
mean value and the range for the month were reported in
the monthly report of operation. The results presented here
are monthly averages.
The following parameters were monitored and analysed
according to standard methods: pH, COD, permanganate
value, total solids (TS), total suspended solids, settleable
solids, total dissolved solids [15]. The amounts of orthophosphates and total nitrogen were measured with the test kits
according to manufacturers instruction (Merck, Germany)
using a Spectroquant Nova 60 photometer (Merck, Germany).

3. Results and discussion


3.1. Opaque beer brewery effluent composition
The average composition of opaque beer brewery wastewater from the opaque beer brewery before treatment is given
in Table 2. The wastewater required nutritive and pH conditioning before it entered the reactor. As the raw wastewater
was unable to provide sufficient nutrients for anaerobic microorganisms, urea and potassium phosphate were added to
give a COD:N:P of 100:5:1. Ochieng et al. [16] reported a
higher COD reduction with nitrates and phosphates enriched
brewery wastewater compared with wastewater without nutrient enrichment. The effluent was acidic, thus, soda ash
was also added to adjust the influent pH to neutral pH. The
permissible limits of components in effluent discharged into
public water are also shown in Table 2. As can be seen the

levels of water quality parameters do not meet the effluent


standards of the local authority. The results indicate that the
untreated opaque beer brewery wastewater has high organic
matter and suspended solids and low concentrations of nutrients. They is the type of wastewater for which anaerobic
digestion would be an acceptable treatment method [17].
The characteristic high concentrations of organic pollutants
and low nutrient content characterised by large variations in
these parameters is consistent with wastewater from clear
beer breweries [3,11]. The fluctuations in the wastewater
characteristics are due to changes in what is happening in
the plant during each period and discontinuous discharges of
the brewerys departments. Owing to the large fluctuations
in the strength of the brewery wastewater, the influent COD
concentration showed large variations, making it difficult to
use a constant organic loading rate. There is need for on-site
treatment of the wastewater to protect the environment and
reduce costs as heavy penalties are imposed for discharging
substandard effluent into the urban treatment works.
Activated sludge was chosen to seed the UASB reactor
instead of pre-granulated bacterial flocs or digested sewage
sludge because a considerable amount of methanogenic bacteria is found in activated sludge and it is easy to obtain
large amounts. More importantly activated sludge contains
little sand or soil and is composed mostly of biomass unlike
digested sewage sludge [11].
3.2. Performance of the UASB clarigester
The performance of the UASB plant at the opaque beer
brewery was studied over a period of 2 years (Fig. 1). The
final effluent from the wastewater treatment plant had a pH
between 6.5 and 7.3. For first 3 months of the study, the

Table 2
Opaque beer brewery wastewater characteristics before treatment
Parameter

Range of values

Average value S.D. of 30 samples

pH
COD (mg/l)
Total suspended solids (mg/l)
Total solids (mg/l)
Total dissolved solids (mg/l)
Settleable solids (cm3 /l)
Total nitrogen (mg/l)
Total phosphates (mg/l)
Permanganate value (mg/l)
Temperature ( C)

3.306.30
8240 20000
29013000
51008750
20205940
90400
0.01960.0336
16124
287900
2535

4.5
12535
2841
7201
4520
274
0.023
59
627
28

0.6
4278
175
1606
1927
268
0.007
52
232
3

Permitted value by Harare city


6.89.0
3000
600
<2000
10
400
30
80

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W. Parawira et al. / Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

20

80

18

70

16

COD (g/L)

12

50

10

40

30

% COD reduction

60

14

20

4
10

2
0

10 12 14
Time (months)

16

18

20

22

24

Fig. 1. COD removal efficiency of the full-scale UASB reactor treating opaque beer brewery wastewater for a period of 24 months (September 1999August
2001). The acceptable COD value by the city council is below 3 g/l. Influent COD (), effluent COD (), permissible value (), %COD reduction ().

a smaller mesh size (0.5 mm) in the 11th month, which reduced the quantity of total solids entering the digester. The
first screen had a mesh size of 1.0 mm. The COD removal
efficiency achieved in this study is comparable to an average
of 60% obtained in a comparative laboratory-scale study
of the effects of dairy and clear beer brewery effluents on
the treatability of domestic sewage by Kilani [2]. However,
Stadlbauer et al. [18] reported COD removal efficiencies of
85 to 90% from a study of anaerobic purification of lager
beer brewery wastewater in laboratory scale biofilm reactors
with and without a methanation cascade. Austermann-Haun
and Seyfried [4] also reported 80% COD removal efficiency from a pilot-scale UASB reactor treating clear beer
brewery wastewater. A study using a laboratory-scale upflow sludge blanket reactor at ambient temperatures gave
a COD removal of 89% [19]. In other words, the performance of the UASB currently being examined could be
improved.

800

80

700

70

600

60

500

50

400

40

300

30

200

20

100

10

% PV reduction

PV (mg/L)

effluent from the digester had high levels of COD remaining after treatment. This may have been probably due to
the presence of suspended solids in the influent. There was
a lot of bad beer destruction in these months as well. The
total solids in the influent to the anaerobic digester were
reduced as from the fourth month by removing solids from
the bottom of the receiving tank, and the performance of
the reactor improved. In the 5th, 6th and 11th month the
effluent from the reactor had high COD because of beer destruction. The brewery was discharging spoilt beer into the
effluent plant during these months. Furthermore the whole
wastewater treatment plant also suffered heavily from pump
mechanical breakdowns in these months. During pump
breakdowns the influent was discharged directly into the
municipal sewers. The average COD removal efficiency
was 57% for the period of this study. The COD removal
efficiency improved from the 12th month to the end of the
study period. This was due to installation of a screen with

0
0

10 12 14 16
Time (months)

18

20

22

24

Fig. 2. Time course of the performance of the UASB reactor in terms of permanganate value (PV) reduction. The acceptable PV value is below 80 mg/l.
Influent PV (), effluent PV (), permissible value (), percent PV reduction ().

W. Parawira et al. / Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

597

450

Total K. nitrogen (mg/L)

400
350
300
250
200
150
100
50
0
0

10 12 14
Time (months)

16

18

20

22

24

Fig. 3. Changes in Total Kejdahl Nitrogen (TKN) concentrations during anaerobic treatment of traditional opaque beer brewery wastewater in the UASB
reactor in 24 months. Influent TKN (), effluent TKN (), permissible TKN value ().

Changes in the organic load removal were also monitored


using permanganate value (PV) and are shown in Fig. 2.
The local authority uses the permanganate method for determining the organic load of the effluent, however, the dichromate reflux method is better than the permanganate and so
the COD was measured by both methods. The efficiency
for reduction of PV ranged from 30 to 70% with an average of 62% for the period under study. In general, the
reactor reduced the permanganate value to the permissible
level of 80 mg/l from the 14th month to the end of the study
period.
From the 17th month to the end of the study period there
was a great improvement of the treatment efficiency in terms
of COD and permanganate value (Figs. 1 and 2, respectively). This can be partly attributed to the reduction in the
total solids in the influent entering the digester that was

carried during that period of study. It could also be argued


that may be the seed sludge in the reactor was still acclimatising to the brewery effluent and the anaerobic conditions of
the reactor in the early period of the study. It is well known
that the start-up phase of a newly installed UASB reactor
may demand a long period of time for acclimatisation. The
seed sludge consisted of aerobic bacteria initially and sufficient large active anaerobic microbial population to break
down the influent COD had been built towards the end of
the study period. Further work is necessary in order to determine the major cause of the observed improved efficiency
in the reactor performance.Fig. 3 shows changes in total nitrogen concentration during anaerobic digestion of opaque
beer brewery wastewater in the UASB reactor. Generally
opaque beer brewery wastewater has low nitrogen levels and
this has to be supplemented to meet the required amounts by

350

Total phosphates (mg/L)

300
250
200
150
100
50
0
0

10 12 14
Time (months)

16

18

20

22

24

Fig. 4. Changes in total phosphates during anaerobic digestion of traditional opaque beer brewery wastewater in the UASB reactor. Influent total phosphates
(), effluent total phosphates (), permissible total phosphates value ().

20

100

18

90

16

80

14

70

12

60

10

50

40

30

20

10

0
0

10 12 14
Time (months)

16

18

20

22

% TS reduction

W. Parawira et al. / Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

Total solids (g/L)

598

24

Fig. 5. Changes in total solids concentration during anaerobic digestion of traditional opaque beer brewery wastewater in the UASB reactor. Influent total
solids (), effluent total solids (), % total solids reduction ().

microorganisms. The nitrogen levels in the overflow were


not higher than the permissible values (400 mg/l), but there
is need to monitor this nutrient because it can cause eutrophication problems downstream, and it can be toxic to
the methanogenic bacteria.
The UASB reactor discharged effluent that contained total
phosphates in greater quantities than permissible levels by
the local authority as shown in Fig. 4. The source of the phosphates seemed to be the addition of triple super phosphate
as nutrient supplement in the balancing tank. The anaerobic
digestion process in UASB reactor has been reported to have
low removal efficiency of nitrogen and phosphates because
the system does not produce large quantities of sludge. The
nitrogen demand for growth of anaerobic bacteria is almost
negligible and if no accumulation of organic matter in the
bioreactor occurs, the balance between total nitrogen flow
in and out of the reactor should even [19]. Nitrogen and

phosphorus are considered as the limiting nutrients in water


bodies and their enrichment by any means lead to acceleration of algae and plant growth. However, the levels of total
phosphates were much lower from the 12th month onwards.
There was a decrease of total and settleable solids as
shown in Figs. 5 and 6, respectively. The UASB reactor also
managed to reduce the total solids with an average total solid
reduction of 50%. Initially the reduction in total solids was
low (below 40%) from the 1st month to the 10th month.
There was a significant improvement in total solids reduction from the 11th month to the end of the study period with
removal efficiency ranging from 60 to 80%. This was due
to installation of a screen with a smaller mesh size (0.5 mm)
in the 11th month. The settleable solids removal efficiency
ranged from 87 to 97% with an average removal efficiency
of 90%. Settleable solids are often a problem in breweries
and need to be monitored during the treatment process [1].

350

100
90
80

250

70
60

200

50
150

40

% reduction

Settleable solids (cm3/L)

300

30

100

20
50

10

0
0

10 12 14
Time (months)

16

18

20

22

24

Fig. 6. Performance of the UASB reactor in terms of settleable solids removal. Influent settleable solids (), effluent settleable solids (), permissible
settleable solids concentration (), percent settleable solids reduction ().

W. Parawira et al. / Process Biochemistry 40 (2005) 593599

Taking into account the COD and total solids reductions


averaging 57 and 50%, respectively, there is need to improve
the performance of the UASB reactor. The frequent incorporation of alkali, besides making the treatment expensive,
makes the biological system sensitive to dis-equilibrium or
collapse, because the process operates under unstable equilibrium conditions artificially created [8]. There is need to
find an alternative cheap source of improving the buffering
capacity of the system. The biogas being produced by the
500 m3 treatment plant is not being collected and measured
but is just being released into the atmosphere without being burnt. There is ample scope to explore the viability for
biogas recovery to promote better brewery wastewater management. There is need for research into the quantity and
composition of the biogas being produced and to try and
make use of it for the benefit of the brewery and maintain a
positive energy balance.

4. Conclusion
The UASB reduced the organic load to permissible levels
during the period of the study, although there is a need to improve its performance in terms of organic load removal. The
organic load reduction transmitted to municipal treatment
plant and subsequently to the environment. Because loading becomes substantially lower, municipal sewer charges
drop thus resulting in significant savings, most of which is
based on effluent COD or BOD, and suspended solids content. Further benefits from the plant could be realised by
taping the energy generated by the anaerobic process in the
form of methane gas. The methane could be used to heat
the steam boiler at the brewery or converted to electricity
via a motor-generator. It can be concluded that these points
indicate the installation of an anaerobic wastewater treatment plant by the brewery as an extremely attractive economic and environmental alternative considering that lying
ahead is an era of critical energy shortages, substantially
higher energy prices, and higher demand on environmental
protection.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Chibuku Breweries, Technical Department for their cooperation and allowing part of
this research to be carried at their premises using their facilities. We would like to thank Nyarai Kurebwaseka and
Raymond Murimba for technical assistance. This work was
financially supported by SIDA/SAREC grants.

599

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