The performance of a hybrid membrane bioreactor (MBR) for treating palm oil mill effluent (POME) has been studied. The objective of this study was to observe the effect of biomass on membrane fouling. Raw POME is difficult to degrade because it contains significant amounts of tryacylglycerols and degradative products such as di-and monoacylglycerols and fatty acids. The fatty acid composition (C12 – C20) in each fraction is different from the other ones and this complexity contributes to the high pollution load from POME. A high strength POME with organic loading of 1.8 kgCOD/m3 was introduced into a sequence of anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic processes in an MBR in order to achieve biological nutrient removal. The MBR was operated with constant flux of 15 l/m2.h and mixed liquor suspended solid (MLSS) up to 8000 mg/L. Activated sludge from aerobic MBR was investigated to determine concentration of carbohydrate and protein in soluble microbial product (SMP) and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). The values of protein in SMP and EPS were higher compared to carbohydrate. Particle size distribution measurements of the sludge were carried out to relate to the membrane fouling. The membrane surface was visualised by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to compare the differences between the clean and the fouled membrane. The experiments have demonstrated that the fouling does not depend on the particle size. Rather, the fouling is mainly caused by the content of the protein in the SMP and EPS
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