Thermophilic (55°C) conversion of methanol in methanogenic-UASB reactors: influence of sulphate on methanol degradation and competition

P.L. Paulo, M.V.G. Vallero, R.H.M. Trevino, G. Lettinga, P.N.L. Lens

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Two upflow sludge bed reactors (UASB) were operated for 80 days at 55 degreesC with methanol as the substrate with an organic loading rate (OLR) of about 20 g COD l(-1) per day and a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 10 h. One UASB was operated without sulphate addition (control reactor-R1) whereas the second was fed with sulphate at a COD:SO42- ratio of 10 (sulphate-fed reactor-R2), providing an influent sulphate concentration of 0.6 g l(-1). For both reactors, methanogenesis was the dominant process with no considerable accumulation of acetate. The methanol removal averaged 93% and 83% for R1 and R2, respectively, and total sulphate removal was achieved in the latter. The pathway of methanol conversion for both sludges was investigated by measuring the fate of carbon in the presence and absence of bicarbonate or specific inhibitors for a sludge sample collected at day 72. In both sludges, about 70% of the methanol was syntrophically converted to methane and/or sulphide, via the intermediate H-2/CO2. strong competition between methanogens and sulphidogens took place in the R2 sludge with half of the methanol-COD being used by methane-producing bacteria and the other half by sulphate-reducing bacteria. Acetate was not an important intermediate for both sludges, and played a slightly more important role for the sulphate-adapted sludge (R2), sustained by the higher amount of bicarbonate produced during sulphate-reduction. The pathway study indicates that, although acetate does not represent an important intermediate, the system is susceptible to its accumulation. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • volatile fatty-acids
  • methanosarcina-barkeri
  • anaerobic-digestion
  • ethanol-production
  • bacteria
  • acetate
  • reduction
  • growth
  • carbon
  • fermentation


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