Review of Bioreactor Designs Applicable to Oil Sands Process-Affected Water Treatment

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  • The objectives of our research program were to: (1) study biological activities in oil sands mature fine tailings and oil sands process-affected water, (2) develop microbial biofilm seed to support engineered biological processes with enhancement measures, and (3) review available bioreactor technologies and select bioreactors for continuous operation in the next phase of the study. This report focuses on the literature review. A summary of the results of two M.Sc. theses focusing on objectives 1 and 2 of the research program are provided as an appendix to this report. Further information is available in the theses. We reviewed 89 papers (from 1980 to 2014) covering eight types of bioreactors with an emphasis on their performance in treating recalcitrant industrial wastewaters. Three types of reactors were selected for further analysis because they have been successfully developed and used for removal of refractory organic compounds from industrial wastewaters. They are moving-bed biofilm reactor, membrane bioreactor, and up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor. The literature review confirmed our initial understanding that in biodegradation of recalcitrant organic compounds, a successful strategy is to first employ an anaerobic bioreactor to break down primarily large molecular organic compounds, increasing their biodegradability, and then use an aerobic bioreactor for the biodegradable organic compounds. Biofilm, or aggregated microbial growth with mixed microbial populations including both anaerobic and aerobic species, is more effective in biodegradation of recalcitrant organic compounds and more resilient to survive in harsh environmental conditions. Based on the literature search, we have selected moving-bed biofilm reactor as the first reactor type for continuous operation. This type of bioreactor can support biofilm growth, can be operated under both anaerobic and aerobic conditions, has been tested on a variety of wastewaters, and has the advantages of low cost and ease of operation. The bioreactor system has been designed, fabricated, installed and tested. It is ready for continuous operation, pending funding for the next phase of continuous bioreactor operation. The selection of a second type of bioreactor with different configuration and superior performance is in progress.

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    Attribution 3.0 International