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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Effluent solids recirculation to municipal sludge digesters enhances long-chain fatty acids degradation capacity

Shakeri Yekta, Sepehr; Liu, Tong; Mendes Anacleto, Thuane; Axelsson Bjerg, Mette; Safaric, Luka; Goux, Xavier; Karlsson, Anna; Bjorn, Annika; Schnurer, Anna


Background Slow degradation kinetics of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) and their accumulation in anaerobic digesters disrupt methanogenic activity and biogas production at high loads of waste lipids. In this study, we evaluated the effect of effluent solids recirculation on microbial LCFA (oleate) degradation capacity in continuous stirred-tank sludge digesters, with the overall aim of providing operating conditions for efficient co-digestion of waste lipids. Furthermore, the impacts of LCFA feeding frequency and sulfide on process performance and microbial community dynamics were investigated, as parameters that were previously shown to be influential on LCFA conversion to biogas. Results Effluent solids recirculation to municipal sludge digesters enabled biogas production of up to 78% of the theoretical potential from 1.0 g oleate l(-1) day(-1). In digesters without effluent recirculation, comparable conversion efficiency could only be reached at oleate loading rates up to 0.5 g l(-1) day(-1). Pulse feeding of oleate (supplementation of 2.0 g oleate l(-1) every second day instead of 1.0 g oleate l(-1) every day) did not have a substantial impact on the degree of oleate conversion to biogas in the digesters that operated with effluent recirculation, while it marginally enhanced oleate conversion to biogas in the digesters without effluent recirculation. Next-generation sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons of bacteria and archaea revealed that pulse feeding resulted in prevalence of fatty acid-degrading Smithella when effluent recirculation was applied, whereas Candidatus Cloacimonas prevailed after pulse feeding of oleate in the digesters without effluent recirculation. Combined oleate pulse feeding and elevated sulfide level contributed to increased relative abundance of LCFA-degrading Syntrophomonas and enhanced conversion efficiency of oleate, but only in the digesters without effluent recirculation. Conclusions Effluent solids recirculation improves microbial LCFA degradation capacity, providing possibilities for co-digestion of larger amounts of waste lipids with municipal sludge.


Anaerobic digestion; Primary and activated sewage sludge; Microbial community; Oleate; Feeding frequency; Sulfide

Published in

Biotechnology for Biofuels
2021, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 56
Publisher: BMC