Ammonium-based aeration control improves nitrogen removal efficiency and reduces N2O emissions for partial nitritation-anammox reactors

Xinyu Wan, Janis E. Baeten, Michele Laureni, Eveline I.P. Volcke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study deals with the effect of aeration control strategies on the nitrogen removal efficiency and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in a partial nitritation–anammox reactor with granular sludge. More specifically, dissolved oxygen (DO) control, constant airflow and effluent ammonium (NH4+) control strategies were compared through a simulation study. Particular attention was paid to the effect of flocs, which are deliberately or unavoidable present besides granules in this type of reactor. When applying DO control, DO setpoints had to be adjusted to the amount of flocs present in the reactor to maintain high nitrogen removal and reduce N2O emissions, which is difficult to realize in practice because of variable floc fractions. Constant airflow rate control could maintain a good nitrogen removal efficiency independent of the floc fraction in the reactor, but failed in N2O mitigation. Controlling aeration based on the effluent ammonium concentration results in both high nitrogen removal and relatively low N2O emissions, also in the presence of flocs. Fluctuations in floc fractions caused significant upsets in nitrogen removal and N2O emissions under DO control but had less effect at constant airflow and effluent ammonium control. Still, rapid and sharp drops in flocs led to a peak in N2O emissions at constant airflow and effluent ammonium control. Overall, effluent ammonium control reached the highest average nitrogen removal and lowest N2O emissions and consumed the lowest aeration energy under fluctuating floc concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129720
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Aeration control
  • Anammox
  • Granular sludge reactor
  • Modelling
  • NO emissions
  • Nitrogen removal
  • Simulation study


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