Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Process Engineering, Biotechnology, Nutrition Technology
Microbial desulfurization of coal by pyrite oxidizing bacterial enrichment cultures has been studied in air-agitated slurry reactors of 4- and 20-L volumes. Batch experiments showed that inoculation with an active bacterial culture is essential to minimize the lag phase, although a considerable number of pyrite oxidizing bacteria was found on the coal prior to desulfurization. For detailed investigations of kinetics, energy requirements, and technical applicability, a bioreactor equipment consisting of a cascade of eight stages was developed and operated continuously. Microbial desulfurization of coal - monitored by measuring the axial profile of dissolved iron concentration, real and maximum oxygen consumption rates, and cell concentration - at pulp densities to 30% was performed over a period of 200 days without any disturbances concerning the aeration system, fluidization, transport of solids and microbial growth. At a pulp density of 20%, a pyrite conversion of 68% was achieved after the third reactor stage at a total residence time of five days in the first three stages. The kinetics of pyrite degradation were found to be well described by a rate equation of first order in pyrite surface area concentration if the pyrite is directly accessible for microbial attack. Rate constants were determined to 0.48 mg pyrite/(cm2 day) in the first and to 0.24 mg pyrite/(cm2 day) in the following reactor stages. Kinetic models taking into account adsorption/desorption as well as growth kinetics failed to describe the observed reaction rates. However, a model treating pyrite degradation and microbial growth kinetics formalistically seems to be applicable when backmixing between the reactor stages can be avoided. The advantage of a multistage reactor in comparison to single-stage equipment was shown by calculation. To obtain a pyrite conversion of 68%, a three-stage reactor would require only 58% of the volume of single-stage equipment.Measurement of oxygen consumption rates proved to provide quickly and easily measurable parameters to observe microbial coal desulfurization in technical scale: the real oxygen consumption rate is correlated to the pyrite oxidation rate and the maximum oxygen consumption rate is correlated to the concentration of viable cells. The Yo/s coefficient for the amount of oxygen consumed per mass unit of pyrite oxygen was determined to approximately 0.33 in comparison to 1.0 which can be calculated from stoichiornetry. This could yet not be explained. Chemical leaching experiments as well as sulfur analyses of desulfurized coal samples showed that the microorganisms play the main role in degradation of pyrite from coal and that pyrite oxidation by ferric iron can be neglected.
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