The paper is authored by Eva Fernández-Palacios, Xudong Zhou, Mabel Mora and David Gabriel
In this study, the long-term performance and microbial dynamics of an Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactor targeting sulfate reduction in a SOx emissions treatment system were assessed using crude glycerol as organic carbon source and electron donor under constant S and C loading rates. The reactor was inoculated with granular sludge obtained from a pulp and paper industry and fed at a constant inlet sulfate concentration of 250 mg S-SO42- L-1 and a constant C/S ratio of 1.5 g C g-1 S for over 500 days. Apart from the regular analysis of chemical species, Illumina analyses of the 16S rRNA gene were used to study the dynamics of the bacterial community along with the whole operation. The reactor was sampled along the operation to monitor its diversity and the changes in targeted species to gain insight into the performance of the sulfidogenic UASB. Moreover, studies on the stratification of the sludge bed were performed by sampling at different reactor heights. Shifts in the UASB performance correlated well with the main shifts in microbial communities of interest. A progressive loss of the methanogenic capacity towards a fully sulfidogenic UASB was explained by a progressive wash-out of methanogenic Archaea, which were outcompeted by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Desulfovibrio was found as the main sulfate-reducing genus in the reactor along time. A progressive reduction in the sulfidogenic capacity of the UASB was found in the long run due to the accumulation of a slime-like substance in the UASB.