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At the present time, anaerobic degradation of organic wastes has been thoroughly studied. This paper summarizes the experiences carried out in Chile in order to enhance the performance of UASB reactors. One of the research areas is the agricultural use of treated wastewaters, because it represents a unique opportunity to solve the problem of water supply for irrigation and at the same time the disposal of treated water. In the search of this technology, anaerobic digestion appears as an interesting alternative, since it has proven to be a suitable treatment for a wide spectrum of industrial wastes. Anaerobically treated wastewaters can be used for irrigation purposes, because they generally contain an important amount of nutrients (like phosphorus and nitrogen), which could be beneficial in agriculture. These considerations are applied to the Chilean pisco industry. Chilean pisco is a traditional alcoholic drink, prepared by distillation of wine made mainly from Muscatel grapes. As in any distillation process, it produces high concentrated wastewaters: vinasses originated as a residue from the distillation operation. Residual process waters from cleaning operations of maceration, sedimentation and fermentation tanks are also generated. The ability of anaerobic digestion due to long period breaks is also valuable since pisco industry has 3 to 5 months per year of nearly no activity or waste generation.

This research is the result of collaborative work made with the biggest Chilean pisco producing company at the moment. Two 5 L laboratory reactors, an UASB and an EGSB, were used in order to study the anaerobic treatability of the wastewater. Both digesters were seeded with anaerobic granular sludge from a full scale UASB treating brewery wastewater, and the reactors were fed with wine vinasses, obtained periodically from pisco industry. The reactors were operated al 30°C, for a period of 8 months. With the purpose of confirming laboratory results, a full scale anaerobic plant was built, and treated water is being used to irrigate 3000 eucalyptus trees. Based on a complete wastewater characterization performed during grape harvest, a 60 m3 UASB digester was designed and built in the smallest pisco production plant of the company. Then a 300 m3 reactor, including biogas treatment for its reuse, was developed. Results showed, both at laboratory and full scale, that anaerobic treatment is suitable for pisco's wastewaters, and also that nutrient content of treated water can be beneficial for plants growth, reducing fertilizers need. High biogas production was observed in both reactors, being close to 500 mL per gram of removed COD. Considering that methane concentration in biogas was 65%, this means that about 90% of the inlet COD was transformed into methane. The use of biogas for electrical cogeneration can solve an important part of energy requirements in the pisco's industry.

Another kind of investigation was carried out in order to study the stability of the UASB granules. The idea is to evaluate the causes of granules destabilization and how it can be recovery. UASB and EGSB laboratory reactors were used. Both digesters were fed with low (0.5 gDQO/L), medium (1.5 gDQO/L), and high (5 gDQO/L) load wastewaters, in order to evaluate possible fluctuations in the productive process. In this study were simultaneously evaluated physical, biochemical and operational parameters which affect the bacterial consortia. Also, image analysis was used to account for the granules changes. From these results, it was possible to propose and to apply recovery techniques to the digesters when they are destabilized.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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