Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 99, Issue 1, pp 67–76 | Cite as

Conversion of chemical scrubbers to biotrickling filters for VOCs and H2S treatment at low contact times

  • Alfredo Santos
  • Xavier Guimerà
  • Antonio David Dorado
  • Xavier Gamisans
  • David GabrielEmail author
Environmental biotechnology


The purpose of this work was to evaluate the technical and economical feasibility of converting three chemical scrubbers in series to biotrickling filters (BTFs) for the simultaneous removal of H2S and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The conversion of the full-scale scrubbers was based on previous conversion protocols. Conversion mainly required replacing the original carrier material and recycle pumps as well as modifying the controls and operation of the reactors. Complete removal of H2S and VOCs on a routine basis was reached at neutral pH in a longer period of time compared to previous conversions reported. Biotrickling filters operated at a gas contact time of about 1.4 s per reactor and at pH controlled between 6.5 and 6.8. Inlet average concentrations below 10 ppmv of H2S and below 5 ppmv for VOCs were often completely removed. The first and second bioreactors played a primary role in H2S removal. Year-round operation of the biotrickling filters proved the ability of the system to handle progressive load increases of H2S and VOCs. However, fast, sudden load changes often lead to reduced removal efficiencies. Odor analyses showed average removal efficiencies above 80 %. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry of selected samples showed that outlet odor concentration was due to limited removal of VOCs. The conversion showed was economically viable taking into account the theoretical consumption of chemicals needed for the absorption and oxidation of both H2S and VOCs.


Chemical scrubbers’ conversion Biotrickling filterm H2VOCs Neutral pH operation 



We acknowledge the Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) and Ecología Técnica S.A. for providing financial support through the project BIOFILTROS—IDI 20100391. The authors would like to thank the personnel at Cubelles-Cunit WWTP for their help and support during the field work.

Supplementary material

253_2014_5796_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (358 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 357 kb)


  1. Card T (2001) Chemical odour scrubbing systems. In: Stuetz R, Frechen FB (eds) Odours in Wastewater Treatment: Measuring, Modelling and Control. International Water Association Publishing, London, pp 309–344Google Scholar
  2. Chung YC, Huang C, Tseng CP (1997) Biotreatment of ammonia from air by an immobilized Arthrobacter oxydans CH8 biofilter. Biotechnol Prog 13:794–800. doi: 10.1021/bp970065e PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Davoli E, Gangai ML, Morselli L, Tonelli D (2003) Characterisation of odorants emissions from landfills by SPME and GC/MS. Chemosphere 51:357–368. doi: 10.1016/S0045-6535(02)00845-7 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Deshusses MA, Gabriel D (2005) Biotrickling filter technology. In: Shareefdeen Z, Singh A (eds) Biotechnology for odor and air pollution control. Springer, Berlin, pp 147–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Devai I, DeLaune R (1999) Emission of reduced malodorous sulfur gases from wastewater treatment plants. Water Environ Res 71:203–208. doi: 10.2175/106143098X121842 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Devinny JS, Deshusses MA, Webster TS (1999) Biofiltration for air pollution control. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  7. Dincer F, Muezzinoglu A (2008) Odor-causing volatile organic compounds in wastewater treatment plant units and sludge management areas. J Environ Sci Heal A 43:1569–1574. doi: 10.1080/10934520802293776 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dorado AD, Lafuente J, Gabriel D, Gamisans X (2010) The role of water in the performance of biofilters: Parameterization of pressure drop and sorption capacities for common packing materials. J Hazard Mater 180:693–702. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.04.093 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dorado AD, Gabriel D, Gamisans X (2013) Biofiltration of WWTP sludge composting emissions at contact times of 2 to 8 seconds. In: 5th IWA Specialized Conference on Odors and Air Emissions Jointly Held With 10th Conference on Biofiltration for Air Pollution Control, San Francisco, California, USAGoogle Scholar
  10. Dorado AD, Husni S, Pascual G, Puigdellivol C, Gabriel D (2014) Inventory and treatment of compost maturation emissions in a municipal solid waste treatment facility. Waste Manag 34:344–351. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2013.10.044 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Easter C, Quigley C, Burrowes P, Witherspoon J, Apgar D (2005) Odor and air emissions control using biotechnology for both collection and wastewater treatment systems. Chem Eng J 113:93–104. doi: 10.1016/j.cej.2005.04.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. EN 13725 (2003) Air quality—determination of odour concentration by dynamic olfactometry. Comité Européen de Normalisation, Brussels, pp 1–70Google Scholar
  13. Estrada JM, Kraakman NJRB, Muñoz R, Lebrero R (2011) A comparative analysis of odour treatment technologies in wastewater treatment plants. Environ Sci Technol 45:1100–1106. doi: 10.1021/es103478j PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gabriel D, Deshusses MA (2003a) Retrofitting existing chemical scrubbers to biotrickling filters for H2S emission control. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100:6308–6312. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0731894100 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gabriel D, Deshusses MA (2003b) Performance of a full-scale biotrickling filters treating H2S a gas contact time of 1.6 to 2.2 seconds. Environ Prog 22:111–118. doi: 10.1002/ep.670220213 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gabriel D, Deshusses MA (2004) Technical and economical analysis of the conversion of a full-scale scrubber to a biotrickling filter for odor control. Water Sci Technol 50:309–318PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gabriel D, Cox HHJ, Deshusses MA (2004b) Conversion of full-scale wet scrubbers to biotrickling filters for H2S control at publicly owned treatment works. J Environ Eng-ASCE 13:1110–1117. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(2004)130:10(110) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. González-Sánchez A, Revah S, Deshusses MA (2008) Alkaline biofiltration of H2S odors. Environ Sci Technol 42:7398–7404. doi: 10.1021/es800437f PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gostelow P, Parsons SA (2000) Sewage treatment works odour measurement. Water Sci Technol 41(6):33–40Google Scholar
  20. Jacobson LD, Akdeniz N, Hetchler BP, Bereznicki SD, Heber AJ, Jacko RB, Heathcote KY, Hoff SJ, Koziel JA, Cai L, Zhang S, Parker DB, Caraway EA (2010) Odor and odorous chemical emissions from animal buildings: part 4. Correlations between sensory and chemical measurements. In: International Symposium on Air Quality and Manure Management for Agriculture Conference Proceedings, 13-16 September 2010, Dallas, Texas. doi:10.13031/2013.32647Google Scholar
  21. Kim S, Deshusses MA (2005) Understanding the limit of H2S degrading biotrickling filters using a differential biotrickling filter. Chem Eng J 113:119–126. doi: 10.1016/j.cej.2005.05.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Larroque V, Desauziers V, Mocho P (2006) Comparison of two solid-phase microextraction methods for the quantitative analysis of VOCs in indoor air. Anal Bioanal Chem 386:1457–1464. doi: 10.1007/s00216-006-0714-9 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lebrero R, Bouchy L, Stuetz R, Muñoz R (2011) Odor assessment and management in wastewater treatment plants: a review. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 41:915–950. doi: 10.1080/10643380903300000 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lebrero R, Rangel MGL, Muñoz R (2013) Characterization and biofiltration of a real odorous emission from wastewater treatment plant sludge. J Environ Manag 116:50–57. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.11.038 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nagata Y (2003) Measurement of odor threshold by triangle odor bag method. In; Ministry of Environmental Government of Japan. Odor Measurement Review. pp 122-123Google Scholar
  26. Pagans E, Font X, Sánchez A (2007) Coupling composting and biofiltration for ammonia and volatile organic compound removal. Biosyst Eng 97:491–500. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2007.03.03S CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Prado OJ, Redondo RM, Lafuente J, Gabriel D (2009) Retrofitting of an industrial chemical scrubber into biotrickling filter: performance at a gas contact time below 1 s. J Environ Eng-ASCE 135:359–366. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0000013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Prenafeta-Boldú F, Ortega O, Arimany M, Canalias F (2012) Assessment of process limiting factors during the biofiltration of odorous VOCs in a full-scale composting plant. Compost Sci Util 20:73–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scaglia B, Orzi V, Artola A, Font X, Davoli E, Sanchez A, Adani F (2011) Odours and volatile organic compounds emitted from municipal solid waste at different stage of decomposition and relationship with biological stability. Bioresour Technol 102:4638–4645. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2011.01.016 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sharma KR, Yuan Z, de Haas D, Hamilton G, Corrie S, Keller J (2008) Dynamics and dynamic modeling of H2S production in sewer systems. Water Res 42:2527–2538. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2008.02.013 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shinabe K, Oketani S, Ochi T, Kanchanatewee S, Matsumura M (2000) Characteristics of hydrogen sulfide removal in a carrier-packed biological deodorization system. Biochem Eng J 5:209–217. doi: 10.1016/S1369-703X(00)00061-9 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wang X, Parcsi G, Sivret E, Stuetz R, Cesca J (2010) Olfactory characterisation of NMVOC emissions from WWTP inlet works. Water 37:82–86Google Scholar
  33. Wu L, Loo YY, Koe LCC (2001) A pilot study of a biotrickling filter for the treatment of odorous sewage air. Water Sci Technol 44:295–299PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfredo Santos
    • 1
  • Xavier Guimerà
    • 2
  • Antonio David Dorado
    • 2
  • Xavier Gamisans
    • 2
  • David Gabriel
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering, School of EngineeringUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Department of Mining Engineering and Natural ResourcesUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaManresaSpain

Personalised recommendations