Production of volatile fatty acids from the canning industry’s wastewater

The CONSERVAL project, which aims to recover by-products and wastewater from the canning industry, is giving the finishing touches to the opening of its 2 m³ pilot plant, already installed in a Galician canning factory. The plant will test new acid fermentation technologies for the production and purification of volatile fatty acids (VFA). Prior to its start-up, the project already has 5-litre reactors at work, operating continuously, in order to optimise the fermentation process.

As a preliminary step towards establishing the pilot plant, and following the scalability principle, various laboratory tests have been conducted, by using three different types of canning wastewater: tuna, mussels and seafood mix. These tests have served to elucidate the best waste matrices and test optimum operating conditions, taking factors such as pH, temperature and hydraulic retention time (HRT) into account.

Pilot plant

Now, with the first results and collected data, the pilot plant is composed of:

  • Effluent adequacy. Area in which the water is prepared for the biochemical reaction: pH, temperature and grease separation.
  • Fermenter. Biological reactor in which the process for the conversion of organic carbon into desirable VFAs will be carried out.
  • Solid/liquid separation system. Aimed at cleaning the effluent from the fermentation of solids and undesired particles and selecting desirable volatile fatty acids (acetic, propionic, butyric, …).
Pilot plant components, front view.
Pilot plant components, rear view.

In this stage of the project, led by Cetaqua, the two universities that are part of the consortium are involved. Thus, in order to optimize the results, the University of Santiago de Compostela will apply and develop a mathematical model to determine the optimal parameters for the targeted production of VFAs under maximum productivity conditions, and the University of Porto will develop technologies for the separation and purification of VFAs by means of membranes and adsorption processes.

CONSERVAL, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Cooperation Programme, Interreg V-A Spain-Portugal (POCTEP) 2014-2020, promotes the modernisation of the canning industry by focusing on the conversion of industrial waste flows into high value-added resources.

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