Influence of operating conditions on sulfate reduction from real mining process water by membrane biofilm reactors

José Ignacio Suárez, Marcelo Aybar, Iván Nancucheo, Benjamín Poch, Patricio Martínez, Bruce E. Rittmann, Alex Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Two H2-based membrane biofilm reactor (H2-MBfR) systems, differing in membrane type, were tested for sulfate reduction from a real mining-process water having low alkalinity and high concentrations of dissolved sulfate and calcium. Maximum sulfate reductions were 99%, with an optimum pH range between 8 and 8.5, which minimized any toxic effect of unionized hydrogen sulfide (H2S) on sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and calcite scaling on the fibers and in the biofilm. Although several strategies for control of pH and gas back-diffusion were applied, it was not possible to sustain a high degree of sulfate reduction over the long-term. The most likely cause was precipitation of calcite inside the biofilm and on the surface of fibers, which was shown by scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) analysis. Another possible cause was a decline in pH, leading to inhibition by H2S. A H2/CO2 mixture in the gas supply was able to temporarily recover the effectiveness of the reactors and stabilize the pH. Biomolecular analysis showed that the biofilm was comprised of 15-20% SRB, but a great variety of autotrophic and heterotrophic genera, including sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, were present. Results also suggest that the MBfR system can be optimized by improving H2 mass transfer using fibers of higher gas permeability and by feeding a H2/CO2 mixture that is automatically adjusted for pH control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcite
  • Hydrogen
  • Membrane biofilm reactor
  • pH control
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of operating conditions on sulfate reduction from real mining process water by membrane biofilm reactors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this