The biological nitrogen removal (BNR) involves two processes: nitrification and denitrification. Denitrification occurs almost exclusively under facultative anaerobic or microaerophilic conditions; however, aerobic denitrification can occur in aerated reactors. In this chapter, the feasibility of achieving nitrogen removal using a lab-scale biological sequencing batch reactor (SBR) exposed to anoxic/oxic (AN/OX) phases is described in order to attain aerobic denitrification. The SBR was fed with acetate and ammonium sulfate. Nitrite generation was controlled in order to avoid the N2O production by nitrifier denitrification. Experiments under four different operating conditions were carried out: low and high aeration, each one with low and high organic loads. For all the tested conditions, a complete COD removal was achieved. The highest inorganic N removal close to 80% was obtained at pH = 7.5, high organic load (880 mg COD/(L day)) and high aeration given by 12 h cycle, AN/OX ratio = 0.5:1.0, and dissolved oxygen concentration higher than 4.0 mg O2/L. Nitrification followed by high-rate aerobic denitrification took place during the aerobic phase. Denitrification took place mainly from the intracellular reserves of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) during the aerobic phase. The proposed AN/OX system constitutes a simple and potentially eco-friendly process for biological nitrogen removal, providing N2 as the end product and decreasing the formation of N2O, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Part of the book: Biotechnology and Bioengineering