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2745

IWA Publishing 2012 Water Science 8, Technology | 66.12 | 2012

Estimates of methane ioss and energy recovery potentiai


in anaerobic reactors treating domestic wastewater
L. C. S. Lobato, C. A. L. Chernicharo and C. L. Souza

ABSTRACT
This work aimed at developing a mathematical model that could estimate more precisely the fraction
of chemical oxygen demand (COD) recovered as methane in the biogas and which, effectively,
represented the potential for energy recovery in upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactors
treating domestic wastewater. The model sought to include all routes of conversion and losses in

L. c. s. Lobato (corresponding author)


C. A. L. Chernicharo
C. L. Souza
Federal University of Minas Gerais.
B. Horizonte.
Brazil
E-mail:/s/tofot)ato@ya/joo.co/n.r

the reactor, including the portion of COD used for the reduction of sulfates and the loss of methane in
the residual gas and dissolved in the effluent. Results from the production of biogas in small- and
large-scale UASB reactors were used to validate the model. The results showed that the model
allowed a more realistic estimate of biogas production and of its energy potential.
Key words | anaerobic reactors, biogas, COD balance, domestic wastewater, energy recovery, UASB
reactor

INTRODUCTION
The mass balance of chemical oxygen demand (COD) to
estimate the recovery of methane and energy in anaerobic
reactors usually does not consider the portion of COD
used in sulfate reduction, nor the portions lost as dissolved
methane in the effluent or emitted to the atmosphere. It is
known that the portion of COD used in sulfate reduction
is small due to the low concentration of sulfates in domestic
wastewater, usually in the range of 20-100 mg SO^^ L"^
(Singh & Viraraghavan 1998; Metcalf & Eddy 2003), but it
is still important to consider it in the models that estimate
the production of methane. On the other hand, in relation
to the COD converted to methane, a significant portion
could be dissolved in tbe liquid pbase and be lost witb tbe
final effluent (Agrawal et al 1997; Hartley & Lant 2006;
Souza & Cbernicbaro 2on). Furthermore, methane loss
can also occur due to emissions on the settler surface of
upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactors. Measurements taken by Souza & Cbernicbaro (2on) indicated tbat,
of all the methane produced in UASB reactors treating domestic wastewater, tbe portion dissolved in tbe effluent varied
from 36 to 40%, wbile tbe portion emitted on tbe surface of
the settlers was in the order of 4%, constituting the waste
gas. To explain these huge losses of dissolved methane.
Hartley & Lant (2006) developed the hypothesis that the
methane dissolved in tbe effluent of different types of
anaerobic reactors could be supersaturated in relation to
doi: 10.2166/wst.2012.514

tbe saturation calculated according to Henry's law. Therefore, the measurements taken by Souza & Chernicharo
(2on) in anaerobic reactors treating domestic (low concentration) wastewater and operated at a very low organic
loading rate (around 1.5 kg COD m"^ d"^) are in accordance with tbis hypothesis.
The loss of methane dissolved in tbe effluent or in the
waste gas not only represents a loss of potential energy but
also contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases. Pierotti
(2007) reports a mass balance that considers tbe portion of
COD converted to metbane to be divided into methane in
the biogas and metbane dissolved in tbe effluent, in percentages from 20 to 25% of tbe influent COD, for both portions.
The same mass balance sbows tbe percentage of 40-50% for
tbe COD effluent and 10% for tbe COD that is converted
into sludge. This mass balance takes into account the portion of COD converted to metbane and its division;
however, it does not include tbe portion tbat is due to
sulfidogenesis.
Considering tbat the potential for production and recovery of biogas in UASB reactors tbat treat domestic waste is
considered low (Noyola et al 2006), rarely resulting in
some type of energy use (the biogas is usually burned), the
development of models that permit more precise estimates
of the effective potential energy tbat may be recovered, as
well as the emission factors (losses), becomes important.

2746

L. C. S. Lobato et al.

Water Science & Technology | 66.12 | 2012

Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

Thus, the COD mass balance models must incorporate all


the main routes of conversion and of loss, that is: the portion
used in sulfate reduction; the portion converted into sludge,
which may be subdivided into the fraction remaining in the
reactor and the portion that is lost with the effluent; the dissolved portion not converted into methane and discharged
with the effluent; the portion converted into methane that
is recovered as biogas (which can be used as energy
source); as well as the portion converted into methane
that escapes dissolved in the effluent or as waste gas
(losses). So, the aim of this study was to develop a mathematical model that better represented the mass balance of
COD and the potential for energy recovery in UASB reactors treating domestic wastewater.

rates of methane loss. The typical scenario uses intermediary values for the input data.
Input data
The input data considered in the simulation are shown in
Table 1. The variability of the input data (Pop, QPC,
QPCcoD and T) was incorporated into the interpretation
of the model results, through Analysis of Uncertainty,
which is based on a large number of simulations (in this
case, 250 simulations for each scenario), making the socalled Monte Carlo simulation. For each run of the model,
a different set of values for the input data is chosen for
which uncertainty exists. The input data were generated randomly following uniform distribution and within preestablished ranges.
Fractions of the mass baiance of COD and of potentiai
recovery of CH4

MATERIAL AND METHODS


The mathematical model for calculating the mass balance of
COD and the energy potential was structured with a
reduced number of input data, with the goal of facilitating
its use in a broader way. Conceptually, the model was structured according to the COD conversion routes and methane
flow in UASB reactors shown in Figure 1.
The model was developed considering three scenarios
that lead to different methane recovery potential: (i) worst
scenario; (ii) typical scenario; (iii) best scenario. The worst
scenario, in which the energy potential is lower, involves
systems operating with more diluted waste, higher sulfate
concentrations, lower COD removal efficiencies, and
higher rates of methane loss. The best scenario involves systems operating with more concentrated waste, lower sulfate
concentrations, higher COD removal efficiencies, and lower

Once the input data were defined, the portions of COD


removed from the system, converted into sludge and consumed in sulfate reduction, are firstly estimated. Based on
these portions, the total COD converted into CH4 and
the consequent volumetric production are calculated. In
order to calculate the volume of CH4 actually available
for energy use, the model considers the losses of CH4 dissolved in the effluent and in the gaseous phase with the
waste gas, in addition to other eventual losses in the gaseous phase (e.g. leaks). Finally, deducting these losses,
the potential available energy is calculated. The equations
used to calculate all the portions of the mass balance of
COD and the potential for energy recovery are shown in
Table 2.

COD converted into CH4


present in the biogas
* - . - . _ . i . J COD converted into CH4 and lost into the atmosphere

r -tf

Load of infiuent COD

tn

COD converted into CH4 and lost with the waste gas

* -

i,

COD converted into CH and lost dissoived in the effluent

I
1
-=HL

COD not converted into CH4, and lost with the effluent

i
COD used by the BRS in sulfate rduction

1
-

COD converted into sludge

Figure 1 I COD conversion routes and methane fiow in UASB reactors.

2747

Table 1

L. C. S. Lobato e al.

Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

Water Science & Technology | 66.12 | 2012

Input data considered in the model

scenario
Reference

Contributing population (Pop)


Per-capita wastewater contribution
(QPC)

Unit

worst

Typical

inbab.

1,000-1,000,000

Best

0.12-0.22

von Sperling & Chernicharo (2005)

0.09-0.11

von Sperling & Chernicharo (2005)

Per-capita COD contribution


(QPCCOD)

Expected efficiency of COD removal

60

65

70

von Sperling & Chernicharo (2005)

Sulfate concentration in the influent


kg SO4 m
(Cso,)
Efficiency of sulfate reduction {Eso) "/o

0.08

0.06

0.04

Singb&Viraraghavan (1998); Metcalf& Eddy (2003);


Gloria et al (2008)

80

75

70

Souza (2010)

Operational temperature of tbe


reactor (T)

20-30

CODcH4 lost as waste gas (pw)

Otber CODcH4 losses (e.g. biogas


leaks) (po)

Dissolved CODCH4 lost with tbe


effluent (p^)

kg m"^

Percentage of CH4 in tbe biogas

von Sperling & Cbernicbaro (2005)

7.5

5.0

2.5

Souza & Cbernicbaro (2on)

7.5

5.0

2.5

Souza & Cbernicharo (2on)

0.025

0.020

0.015 Souza & Cbernicharo (2on)

70

75

80

0/0

(CcH4)

Validation of the mathematical modei


Following the simulations, the validation of the model was
carried out based on measured biogas production and composition in small- and large-scale UASB reactors, according
to the main characteristics shown in Table 3, and the
descriptions given below.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


Simulations
Figure 2 shows the average values obtained from the simulations performed, in which the contribution of each
portion of the mass balance of COD may be observed for
the three simulations analyzed (worst, typical and best).
The analysis of Figure 2 supports the following
comments:
13-15% of the COD applied to the system was converted
into biomass. In relation to simulations of sulfate concentration in the influent (varying between 40 and 80 mg L~^),
the percentage COD use in sulfate reduction varied
between 3 and 7%.

von Sperling & Cbernicbaro (2005)

For the simulated rates of methane loss in the effiuent


(varying between 15 and 25mgL"^), 11-17% (average)
of the COD load applied to the system was converted
into non-recovered methane in the biogas, but lost dissolved in the effluent.
The portion of influent COD effectively converted into CH4
present in the biogas, which represents the effective potential of energy recovery, varied from 19% in the worst
scenario to 39% in the best scenario. As it involves domestic
waste, in which the relationship COD/SO4" is high, methanogenesis (the sum of the portions of COD converted into
CH4) is greater in relation to suldogenesis (39-52% contrasted to 3-7% of the influent COD, respectively).
In the worst scenario, of all the COD converted into CH4,
on average 39%, only 19% refers to the portion of CH4
collected in the three-phase separator and available for
use. This represents a loss of about 50% of energy potential. In the best scenario, an average of 52% of COD is
converted into CH4, with 39% related to the portion of
CH4 available for use, which characterizes only a 25%
loss of energy potential. Thus, for a given concentration
of influent COD and removal efficiency in the reactor,
the loss of dissolved methane in the effluent becomes
an extremely important factor in the energy balance of
the system.

2748

L. C. S. Lobato et al. \ Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

Water Science & Technology | 66.12 | 2012

Table 2 I Equations for calculating the portions of the mass balance of COD and energy recovery potential
Portions

Estimate of mean
influent fiowrate
Estimate of daily COD

Equations

Notes

mcan = mean influent flowrate (m^ d '); Pop =


population (inhab.); QPC = per-cupte wastewater
contribution (m'' inhab "^ d"')

an = Pop X QPC

oved = daily COD mass removed from the


system (kg COD d^'); Pop = population (inhab.);

CODremoved = Pop x QPCCOD

mass removed from


the system

QPCCOD = per-capita COD contribution (kg


COD inhab"' d"'); BCOD = efficiency of COD

removal (%)
Estimate of daily COD
mass used by the
biomass

i'coD =

Estimate of sulfate load

COSO4 convened = ^mean X Cso, X s o ,

COSO4 ^j = load of SO4 converted into sulfide


(kg SO4 d~'); Cso, = average influent SO4
concentration (kg SO4 m"''); 30, = efficiency of
sulfate reduction (%)

Estimate of daily COD


mass used in sulfate
reduction

CODso, = COso, converte


S^" + 2O2 => SO4"
(32g) + (64g) ^ (96g)

CODso^ = COD used by the BRS for sulfate

Estimate of daily COD

CODCH, =

CODsiudge = daily COD mass converted into


biomass (kg CODsiudge d"'); ycoD = sludge yield,
as COD (kg COD.iudge kg COD^Inoved); Y= sludge
yield, as TVS (kg TVS kg COD^e^nioved);
TVS-COD = conversion factor (1 kg TVS =
1.42 kg CODsiudge); TVS = total volatile solids

= CODremoved x

converted into
sulfide

mass converted into

reduction (kg CODgo, d"^); KCOD-SO^ = COD

consumed in sulfate reduction (0.667 kg CODSO4


g - CODso,

_ CODm, x K x (275-F T)
QCH, px/<coD x 1.000

CODcH4 = daily COD mass converted into methane


(kg CODcH4 d"^); QCH4 = theoretical volumetric
production of methane (m'' d"'); i? = gas constant
(0.08206 atm L m o r ' K"'); T= operational
temperature of the reactor ( C); P = atmospheric
pressure (1 atm); KCOD = COD of one mole of

CH4 (0.064 kg CODcH4 m o r ' )


Estimate of methane
loss

Qw CH4 = QCH,
Qo-CH.=QcH,xpo

Qw-cH4 = methane loss as waste gas (m^ d"'); p =


percentage of methane in the gaseous phase lost
as waste gas (%); QO-CH4 = other methane losses
in the gaseous phase (m^ d"'); po = percentage of
methane in the gaseous phase considered as other
losses (%); QL-CH4 = loss of dissolved methane in
the liquid effluent (m^ d"'); p t = concentration of
dissolved methane in the liquid effluent (kg m"');
/cH4 = conversion factor of methane mass into
COD mass (4 kg COD kg CHj')

QL-CH. = fn,ean XpL X/CH, X

Estimate of actual
methane production

Qactuai-CH4 = QCH, - QW-CH, - QO-CH, - QL-CH>

Qactuai-cH4 = actual producton of methane


available for energy recovery (m'' d"')

Estimate of available

PEavaUabIe-CH4 = QN-actual-CH, X CH4

PEactuai-CH4 = available energy potential (MJ d~');


QN-actuai-cH4 = normalized methane production
(Nm' d"'); CH4 = calorific energy of methane
(35.9 MJ Nm-')

energy potential

The mass balance carried out by Souza (2010) through


measurements in reactors, in both pilot- and demonstration-scale, indicated the following ranges in relation to
the global COD: soluble in the effluent (14-24%), sludge
in the effluent (10-20%), sludge retained in the reactor

(8-10%), methane in the biogas (24-30%), dissolved


methane (16-18%), and sulfate reduction (4.5-5%). It is
observed that these values are close to the ones obtained
from the simulations using the mathematical model
developed.

2749

Table 3

Water Science & Technology | 66.12 | 2012

L. C. S. Lobato et al. \ Estimates of methane ioss and energy in anaerobic reactors

Main characteristics of the UASB reactors used to validate the model

Characteristic

Pilot-scale

Demo-scale

Full-scale

Location

CePTS*

CePTS*

Ona - Belo Horizonte - Brazil

Laboreaux - Itabira - Brazil

Population (inhab.)

140

330,000

30,000

Mean influent owrate (L s"^)

0.02

0.32

660

70

Number of units

24

Dimensions (m)

D = 0.3

D = 2.0

38.4x6.4

21.7x6.2
4.5
1,210.9

Useful depth (m)

4.0

4.5

4.5

Useful volume (m'^)

0.36

14.0

2,211.9

Full-scale

(*) Centre for Research and Training on Sanitation - Belo Horizonte - Brazil.

(a)
COO not
conerted into
CH4, and lost
witiithe
effluent
m

COD used
in Sulfate
reduction
7%

(b)

(c)

COD
conveftedlnto
sludge ' ' ^
COD used in
^^
sulfate
\
"
reduction
5%

COD
converted into
COD used in f^ng
sulfate
1504
reduction
3%

converted into
CH4, and lost
with the
effluent
35%

COD not
converted into
CH4, and lost

Ottier
C0DCH4
losses
3%

30%
Figure 2 I Result of the simulations of COD mass balance in UASB reactors treating domestic waste, in relation to the infiuent COD for the three scenarios: (a) worst; (b) typical; (c) best.

Figure 3 shows the results from the simulations and the


respective adjusted lines for the production of biogas and for
the energy recovery potential in UASB reactors treating
domestic wastewater. The simulations considered the variation in the contributing population from 0 to 1 million
inhabitants (corresponding to influent flowrates from 0 to
2.5 m'' s"^). The input data for the model are shown in

Table 1, for the three scenarios considered (worst, typical


and best), while the determination coefficients of the
adjusted lines are presented in Table 4.
A wide range of biogas production and potential for
energy generation may be obtained, depending on the input
variables. Considering, for example, a wastewater flowrate
of 2,000 L s \ the expected biogas production and potential

ergy

(b)
c

400,000 -

'S
300,000

(MJ.

enl lal genen

Ir

200,000 i 00,000

s.
Typical
i Best

500

1,000

1,500

Wastewater flowrate (L.s-' )

2,000

2,500

0
"Wonl
Typical

500

1,000

1,500

2,000

2,500

Wastewater flow rate (L.s' ' )

Figure 3 I Expected ranges of biogas production (a) and potentiai generation of energy (b) in UASB reactors treating domestic wastewater.

2750

L. C. S. Lobato et al. \ Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

Water Science & Technology | 66.12 { 2012

of energy recovery may vary from 10,000 to 18,000 m^ d ^


and from 240,000 to 480,000 MJ d'\ respectively.
Based on the simulations performed, tbe following unitary relationships were also obtained for methane, biogas
and energy production in UASB reactors treating typically
domestic wastewater (Table 5).
The UASB reactors show an estimated volumetric biogas
production of 14 L.inbab"^ d"^ (mean for tbe typical scenario);
tbis production is lower tban tbat found in tbe sludge digesters.
In the best scenario, tbe mean value of tbe volumetric biogas
production was 17L.inhab"^ d^^ The potential for energy
recovery in tbe UASB reactors varied from 1.5 to 2.9 MJ per
m^ of treated wastewater, depending on the characteristics of
tbe influent wastewater and tbe efficiency of tbe system.
Finally, it is important to mention tbat tbe range of
mean metbane yield predicted by tbe model (0.1130.196 Nm^ CH4 kg CODremoved - Table 5) is in close agreement witb tbe expected range reported by Noyola et al
(1988), of 0.08-0.18 Nm^ kg CODremoved-'.

reactors used to validate tbe model (Table 3), were plotted


on tbe same grapb sbowing tbe tendency lines for the results
obtained in tbe simulations (Figures 4-7).
The mean values obtained for tbe pilot-scale UASB reactor were 0.12 m^ d"' for biogas production (Figure 4(a)), and
2.7 MJd"' for the energy recovery potential (Figure 4(b)),
considering the mean influent flowrate of 0.02 L s"^ For the
demonstration-scale UASB reactor, considering the mean
influent flowrate of 0.32 L s " \ 2.1 m^ d"' and 55.8 MJ d"'
were obtained for biogas production (Figure 5 (a)) and
energy recovery potential (Figure 5(b)), respectively.
Biogas production in tbe UASB reactors of Laboreaux
WWTP was in tbe order of 390 m^ d"^ (Figure 6(a)), resulting in an energy recovery potential of around 11,000 MJ d"^
(Figure 6(b)). For tbe UASB reactors of Ona WWTP, tbe
mean observed values were 3,900 m^d~^ for biogas production (Figure 7(a)) and 105,000MJd"' for energy
recovery potential (Figure 7(b)).
The results for biogas production and tbe resultant
potential for energy recovery in both the pilot- and demoscale UASB reactors (Figures 4 and 5), obtained using experimental data, were observed to be witbin tbe simulated
ranges (between worst and best scenarios), with no data
observed below tbe worst scenario line. For tbe full-scale
reactors (Figures 6 and 7), most of the results for biogas production and energy recovery potential were verified to be
concentrated between tbe simulated ranges. However,
some data from botb full-scale plants were situated below
tbe worst scenario line.

Validation of the mathematical model

Model adjustment to the measured data

Tbe predicted results of biogas production and the corresponding potential for energy recovery, for tbe four UASB

To better evaluate tbe model adjustment to the measured


data of biogas production, tbese data were grouped in

Tabie 4 I Regression equations and determination coefficients of the adjusted data

Linear regression equation"


MJd H s ^

Determination
coefficient (/?')

y = 8.95X

y = 235.92X

0.83

7.52*

y = 185.46

0.75

y = 5.16

y = 118.86

0.64

Scenario
Best
Typical
Worst

"Regression equations were obtained for a set of simulated data during a certain run of the
model.

Table 5 I Unitary relationships for the production of methane, biogas and energy production In UASB reactors treating domestic wastewater

Worst scenario
unitary relationsiiip
Unitary metbane
yield

Unitary biogas yield

Unitary energy
potential

unit
NLCH4 inbab"' day"'

iVIaximun'1

Minimum

Typicai scenario
Mean

iVlaximum1

Minimum

Best scenario
iVIean

iVlaximum 1

Minimum

Mean

9.9

3.6

6.8

13.3

7.4

10.2

16.7

11.1

13.7

NLCH4 m"^wastewater

81.7

16.7

42.2

103.7

34.8

64.2

134.6

51.8

81.3

NLCH4kgCOD-eUved

154.1

66.0

113.4

185.8

124.2

158.3

219.1

173.9

196.0

14.1

5.2

9.8

17.7

9.9

13.6

20.8

13.9

17.1

NLbiogas m"^wastewater

116.7

23.8

60.3

138.3

46.4

85.6

168.3

64.8

101.6

NLbiogas kg CODremoved

220.1

94.3

162.0

247.8

165.6

211.1

273.9

217.4

245.0
2.9

NLbiogas inbab"' day"'

MJ m^'^wastewater

2.9

0.6

1.5

3.7

1.2

2.3

4.8

1.9

MJ kg CODr'moved

5.5

2.4

4.1

6.7

4.5

5.7

7.9

6.2

7.0

25.1

25.1

25.1

26.9

26.9

26.9

28.7

28.7

28.7

129.5

47.7

89.7

173.8

96.8

133.8

218.4

145.7

179.3

MJ Nm"^biogas

MJ inbab"' year"'

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Water Science & Teciinoiogy | 66.12 | 2012

L, C. S. Lobato et ai. \ Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

0.02

0.03

0.02

* measured data (pilot sea le)

0.03

measured da ta (pilolseale)

Wastewater flowrate (L.s"')

Wastewater fiowrate (L.s-')

Figure 4 I Validation of the modei using the monitoring data from the pilot-scale UASB reactor: (a) biogas production; (b) potential ot energy recovery.

.1

0.2

0.3

0.1

* measured data (demonstration scale)

0.2

0.3

measured data (demonstration seak)

Wastewater flowrate fL.s-')

Wastewater flowrate {L.s'' )

Figure 5 I Validation of the model using the monitoring data from the demonstration-scale UASB reactor: (a) biogas production; (b) potential of energy recovery.

20

40

60

80

measured data (Laboreaux WWTP)

20

40
60
80
meastjreddata (Labotcaux WWTP)

Wastewater flowrate (L.S"')

Wastewater flowrate (L.s-')

Figure 6 I Validation of the model using the monitoring data from the Laboreaux WWTP: (a) biogas production; (b) potentiai of energy recovery.

two sets of results, as follows: (i) measured results of biogas


production in the pilot- and demo-scale reactors (Figure 8(a));
and (ii) measured results of biogas production in the full-

scale plants (Figure 8(b)). It can be seem from Figure 8(a)


that the linear adjustment of the biogas production data
from the pilot- and demo-scale UASB reactors was very

2752

L. C. S. Lobato et al. | Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

(a)

Water Science & Technology | 66.12 | 2012

(b)
7.000

6.000

fi

5,000

g
3

4,000

1 3.000 .
a.
a

2.000

CQ

/y

/y

1.000

200

400

600

800

1,000

)0

measured dala (Ona WWTP)

400

600

800

1,000

measured data (Ona WWTP)

Wastewater flowrate (L.s-')

Wastewater flowrate (L.S"')

Figure 7 I validation of ttie model using the monitoring data from the Ona WWTP; (a) biogas production; (b) potential of energy recovery.

y=5.70x
R"=0.81

measured data (pilot and dei


|- - linear adjustment of measured data

250

500

750

measured data (WWTP Laboreaun and Ona)


linear adjustment of the measureddata

Wastewater flowrate ( L . s ' )

Waslewater flowrate (L.s"')

Figure 8 I Model adjustment to the measured biogas production data; (a) pilot- and demonstration-scale UASB reactors; (b) full-scale UASB reactors.

close to tbe tendency line predicted by the model in typical


scenario, confirming great adberence to the model. Tbe
determination coefficient {R^) for this set of data was
0.92. On the other hand, the linear adjustment of the
data from the two full-scale plants stayed close to the tendency line of the worst scenario (Figure 8(b)). The R^
coefficient for this set of data was 0.81.
The greater adherence of the results from the pilotand demonstration-scale reactors to the model may be
explained by the fewer variations in the concentration of
the infiuent wastewater, and also by the greater precision
of the biogas meters used in the CePTS. In the case of the
two full-scale plants, the excessive dilution of the influent
wastewater is a recurring problem, owing to the contributions of rainwater and fiood on the river banks,
which result in the reduction of biogas production.
Moreover, the lack of calibration of biogas meters
during some periods may have prompted erroneous
measurements.

It is worth mentioning that the model was developed


and validated for the COD balance in UASB reactors treating domestic (low concentration) wastewater. Its use for
other situations should therefore considrer the review of
the input data presented in Table 1.

CONCLUSION
The mathematical model developed enabled better representation of the mass balance of COD and of the potential for
energy recovery in UASB reactors treating domestic wastewater. The results of the simulations performed showed
that the model enables a more realistic estimate of the
amount of biogas that can be recovered from the interior
of the three-phase separators, which effectively represent
the portion available for energy recovery.
The incorporation into the model of the losses of
methane dissolved in the effiuent and in the gaseous phase.

2753

L. C. S. Lobato et al. \ Estimates of methane loss and energy in anaerobic reactors

as well as the portion of COD used for sulfate reduction, may


be considered an advance as the available models usually
overestimate biogas production and the potential for energy
recovery in anaerobic reactors used in the treatment of domestic wastewater. The results of the simulations indicate that
significant portions of the influent COD may not be recovered as methane in the biogas, depending primarily on the
loss of methane dissolved in the effluent and the concentration of sulfate in the influent. In worst scenario (see
Table 2), only 19% of the influent COD was recovered as
methane in the biogas. In the best scenario, the percentage
of methane recovered in the biogas reached 39% of the influent COD. Of all the COD converted into methane, the
portion recovered in the biogas varied from 49 to 75%,
depending on the losses mentioned above.
When all COD fractions are considered in the mass balance, as well as the possible losses in the liquid and gas
phases, the values obtained for the theoretical amount of
methane available for energy recovery are much closer to
the actual values measured in the field. This can be confirmed by the validation of the mathematical model using
the results for biogas production and percentage of CH4
obtained in pilot, demo- and full-scale UASB reactors.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors wish to acknowledge the support obtained from
the following institutions: Companhia de Saneamento de
Minas Gerais - COPASA; Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientfico e Tecnolgico - CNPq; Fundaao de
Amparo Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais - FAPEMIG;
Sistema Autnomo de Agua e Esgoto de Itabira - SAAE
Itabira.

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First received 28 March 2012; accepted in revised form 19 July 2012

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