Navigating environmental, economic, and technological trade-offs in the design and operation of submerged anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs)

R. Pretel, B.D. Shoener, J. Ferrer, J.S. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs) enable energy recovery from wastewater while simultaneously achieving high levels of treatment. The objective of this study was to elucidate how detailed design and operational decisions of submerged AnMBRs influence the technological, environmental, and economic sustainability of the system across its life cycle. Specific design and operational decisions evaluated included: solids retention time (SRT), mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentration, sludge recycling ratio (r), flux (J), and specific gas demand per membrane area (SGD). The possibility of methane recovery (both as biogas and as soluble methane in reactor effluent) and bioenergy production, nutrient recovery, and final destination of the sludge (land application, landfill, or incineration) were also evaluated. The implications of these design and operational decisions were characterized by leveraging a quantitative sustainable design (QSD) framework which integrated steady-state performance modeling across seasonal temperatures (using pilot-scale experimental data and the simulating software DESASS), life cycle cost (LCC) analysis, and life cycle assessment (LCA). Sensitivity and uncertainty analyses were used to characterize the relative importance of individual design decisions, and to navigate trade-offs across environmental, economic, and technological criteria. Based on this analysis, there are design and operational conditions under which submerged AnMBRs could be net energy positive and contribute to the pursuit of carbon negative wastewater treatment.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-541
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): UIeRA 2012-06291
Acknowledgements: This research work was possible thanks to project CTM2011-28595-C02-01/02 (funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness jointly with the European Regional Development Fund and Generalitat Valenciana GVA-ACOMP2013/203), and by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Academic Partnership Program (UIeRA 2012-06291), which are gratefully acknowledged. The authors would like also to acknowledge the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for partial funding for B.D. Shoener.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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