Continuous anaerobic treatment of autoxidized bark extracts in laboratory‐scale columns

J. Field, M. J.H. Leyendeckers, R. Sierra‐Alvarez, G. Lettinga, L. H.A. Habets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Debarking wastewaters of the forest industry contain high concentrations of tannins that are inhibitory to methane bacteria. The tannins can be polymerized to nontoxic colored compounds by the applications of an autoxidation pretreatment, enabling the anaerobic treatment of easily biodegradable components in the wastewater. The continuous anaerobic treatment of untreated and autoxidized pine bark extract was studied in laboratory‐scale columns packed with a granular sludge bed. The autoxidation doubled the conversion efficiency of bark extract COD to methane (from 19 to 40%). After 5 months of operation, anaerobic treatment of the autoxidized extracts was feasible at high influent concentrations (14 g COD/L) and loading rates (26 g biodegradable COD/L · d) with 98% elimination of the biodegradable fraction. The detoxification pretreatment polymerized the toxic tannins to poorly biodegradable high molecular weight tannins and humic compounds which were not eliminated during anaerobic treatment. Although the original tannins of the untreated extract were eliminated by 60%, they were not biodegraded to volatile fatty acids and methane but instead were transformed to phenolic degradation intermediates (phenol, p‐cresol, 3‐phenyl‐propionate, and carboxycyclohexane). Therefore, the autoxidation pretreatment did not decrease the content of readily biodegradable substrates which accounted for 53% of the extract COD. The recalcitrant COD expected in the effluents of reactors treating autoxidized debarking waste‐water can be effectively separated by calcium precipitation prior to anaerobic treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-255
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 5 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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