Modelling head losses in granular bed anaerobic baffled reactors at high flows during start-up
Anaerobic treatment of low strength, high flow wastewaters can only be effective if the technology employed can meet key hydrodynamic requirements: maximising the contact surface area and contact period between the influent substrate and the biomass solids, minimising solid washout from the reactor and minimising the backpressure across the system. Backpressure or head loss is an important hydrodynamic property of gravity-flow packed bed reactors, where the flow is the resultant of frictional forces between the incoming fluid and the solid packing material through which the wastewater percolates. Excessive backpressure caused by high influent flow-rates can reduce the contact surface area and increase the influent head on the upstream side of the biomass bed leading to overflow spills, unstable performance and process failure. This study investigates the factors affecting backpressure across a Granular bed baffled reactor (GRABBR) with variable baffle positions. Experimental results were used to develop a mathematical model to quantify backpressure based on physical characteristics of the seed biomass, fluid-flow conditions and reactor geometry. Results have shown that for a constant flow rate the anaerobic baffled reactor exhibits the least backpressure characteristics when both the upflow and downflow areas are roughly 50% of the total compartmental width.