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Anaerobic co-digestion of vinasse, molasses and filter cake for the production of methane in UASB reactors: process performance and microbial characterization

Abstract

The need to reduce global pollution has contributed to the development of renewable energy sources such as ethanol and biogas. Brazilian ethanol is produced in a sustainable way, but the production process generates large amounts of waste, such as vinasse, filter cake and molasses. The application of vinasse in natura in agriculture as fertilizer, through the process called fertigation is common in Brazil. With the perspective of environmental control and energy sustainability, new proposals for biotechnological solutions were intensified for the treatment of vinasse and other by-products of ethanol production, aiming at the production of biogas. In this work, a configuration of anaerobic reactors will be studied, consisting of two upland anaerobic reactors with a sludge blanket (UASB), in series, with the unconventional phase separator in the form of Y, with an angle of 45 ° in relation to vertical. Three treatment systems will be tested in parallel: System I (UASB - R1 and R2) - anaerobic co-digestion of vinasse and sugarcane molasses in the crop and molasses digestion in the inter-crop and systems II and III (UASB - R3 and R4 and UASB - R5 and R6) - anaerobic digestion of molasses. The UASB reactors of both systems will be subjected to gradual increase of the organic load rate (OLR) and there will be effluent recirculation of R2. For nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) supplementation, a new strategy will be studied, which consists of the use of filter cake, a byproduct of sugar production, in the tributary of systems I, II and III. System III effluent prior to recirculation will be subjected to the chemical process called Fenton (Fe2+/H2O2), to improve biodegradability and decrease toxicity. Under higher OLR and methane production conditions, the reactor sludge microbiota will be characterized using state-of-the-art sequencing (Illumina HiSeq 2500). With these strategies, stable and continuous methane is expected to be obtained from UASB reactors, providing important solutions for the reuse of byproducts of ethanol production, an important Brazilian sector. (AU)

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