Preservation of thermophilic mixed culture for anaerobic palm oil mill effluent treatment by convective drying methods

D. T. Tan, S. K. Chin, P. E. Poh, Y. H. Lee

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The generation of huge amount of liquid waste known as palm oil mill effluent is a major problem in oil palm industry. Meanwhile, anaerobic biodegradation of such organic effluent at thermophilic condition is a promising treatment technology due to its high efficiency. However, storage and transportation of thermophilic mixed culture sludge are challenging due to constant biogas generation and heating requirement. Hence, drying of thermophilic sludge was conducted to obtain dormant thermophiles and thus enables easier handling. In this study, thermophilic sludge was dried using heat pump at 22 and 32 °C as well as hot air oven at 40, 50, 60, and 70 °C. Subsequently, quality of dried sludge was examined based on most probable number enumeration, chemical oxygen demand, and methane yield. Average drying rate was found to increase from 3.21 to 17.84 g H2O/m2 min as drying temperatures increases while average moisture diffusivity values ranges from 5.07 × 10−9 to 4.34 × 10−8 m2/s. Oven drying of thermophilic mixed culture resulted in highest chemical oxygen demand removal and lowest log reduction of anaerobes at 53.41% and 2.16, respectively, while heat pump drying resulted in the highest methane yield and lowest log reduction of methanogens at 53.4 ml CH4/g COD and 2.09, respectively. To conclude, heat pump at 22 °C was most suitable drying technique for thermophilic mixed culture as the original methane-producing capability was largely retained after drying, at a slightly lower yet still comparable chemical oxygen demand removal when palm oil mill effluent was treated with the rehydrated culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1222
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Biogas
  • Chemical oxygen demand
  • Heat pump drying
  • Methane yield
  • Most probable number
  • Variable moisture diffusivity

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