• Open Access

Microbial resource management of one-stage partial nitritation/anammox


E-mail willy.verstraete@ugent.be; Tel. (+32) 9 264 59 76; Fax (+32) 9 264 62 48.


About 30 full-scale partial nitritation/anammox plants are established, treating mostly sewage sludge reject water, landfill leachate or food processing digestate. Although two-stage and one-stage processes each have their advantages, the one-stage configuration is mostly applied, termed here as oxygen-limited autotrophic nitrification/denitrification (OLAND), and is the focus of this review. The OLAND application domain is gradually expanding, with technical-scale plants on source-separated domestic wastewater, pre-treated manure and sewage, and liquors from organic waste bioenergy plants. A ‘microbial resource management’ (MRM) OLAND framework was elaborated, showing how the OLAND engineer/operator (1: input) can design/steer the microbial community (2: biocatalyst) to obtain optimal functionality (3: output). In the physicochemical toolbox (1), design guidelines are provided, as well as advantages of different reactor technologies. Particularly the desirable aeration regime, feeding regime and shear forces are not clear yet. The development of OLAND trickling filters, membrane bioreactors and systems with immobilized biomass is awaited. The biocatalyst box (2) considers ‘Who’: biodiversity and its dynamic patterns, ‘What’: physiology, and ‘Where’: architecture creating substrate gradients. Particularly community dynamics and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) still require insights. Performant OLAND (3) comprises fast start-up (storage possibility; fast growth of anammox bacteria), process stability (endured biomass retention; stress resilience), reasonable overall costs, high nitrogen removal efficiency and a low environmental footprint. Three important OLAND challenges are elaborated in detailed frameworks, demonstrating how to maximize nitrogen removal efficiency, minimize NO and N2O emissions and obtain through OLAND a plant-wide net energy gain from sewage treatment.