Successful sulphide-driven partial denitrification: Efficiency, stability and resilience in SRT-controlled conditions

Cecilia Polizzi, D. Gabriel, Giulio Munz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Partial denitrification is emerging as a valuable solution for NO2- supply in Anammox systems. When reduced sulphur compounds are used as electron donors, S-driven Partial Autotrophic Denitrification (PAD) can also be achieved, allowing for an integrated autotrophic nitrogen (N) and sulphur (S) removal from liquid and gaseous streams. The aim of the present work was to maximise NO3- reduction to NO2- coupled with complete HS- oxidation, by the selective control of influent S/N ratio and sludge retention time (SRT). A 2.5-L chemostat was operated for 115 days and three operational phases were tested at decreasing SRT of 40, 23 and 13 h, testing S/N ratios in the range of 0.5-1 gS/gN. Successful sulphide-driven PAD was achieved and lead to average NO2- conversion efficiencies as high as77±17% at all the conditions tested, with the highest value of 99% at the lowest S/N of 0.58 gS/gN and SRT of 23 h. Respirometric tests showed that NO3- uptake rate was stable at 90±10 mgN/gVSS/h, when NO3- was present as sole electron acceptor or at NO2- levels as high as 120 mgN/l; on the contrary, NO2- uptake rates were very sensitive to the applied conditions. Metabarcoding analyses revealed that the microbial community was highly enriched in Sulphur Oxidizing Bacteria (SOB>80%) and stable S-limiting conditions appeared to favour Thiobacillus over Sulfurimonas genus. A preliminary assessment of N2O potential emission was also performed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work evaluating the synergic effect of SRT and influent S/N ratio on nitrite accumulation in highly SOB-enriched systems and the NO2- conversion efficiencies achieved are among the highest reported in literature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number133936
Number of pages9
Early online date8 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • Denitrification (PAD)
  • Influent S
  • Influent S/N
  • N
  • Nitrite accumulation
  • Sulphide-driven Partial Autotrophic
  • Sulphide-driven Partial Autotrophic Denitrification (PAD)
  • Sulphur oxidizing biomass (SOB)


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