Achieving complete nitrogen removal by coupling nitritation-anammox and methane-dependent denitrification: A model-based study

Xueming Chen, Jianhua Guo, Guo Jun Xie, Zhiguo Yuan, Bing Jie Ni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The discovery of denitrifying anaerobic methane oxidation (DAMO) processes enables the complete nitrogen removal from wastewater by utilizing the methane produced on site from anaerobic digesters. This model-based study investigated the mechanisms and operational window for efficient nitrogen removal by coupling nitritation-anaerobic ammonium oxidation (Anammox) and methane-dependent denitrification in membrane biofilm reactors (MBfRs). A mathematical model was applied to describe the microbial interactions among Anammox bacteria, DAMO archaea, and DAMO bacteria. The model sufficiently described the batch experimental data from an MBfR containing an Anammox-DAMO biofilm with different feeding nitrogen compositions, which confirmed the validity of the model. The effects of process parameters on the system performance and microbial community structure could therefore be reliably evaluated. The impacts of nitritation produced NO2 -/NH4 + ratio, methane supply, biofilm thickness and total nitrogen (TN) surface loading were comprehensively investigated with the model. Results showed that the optimum NO2 -/NH4 + ratio produced from nitritation for the Anammox-DAMO biofilm system was around 1.0 in order to achieve the maximum TN removal (over 99.0%), independent on TN surface loading. The corresponding optimal methane supply increased while the associated methane utilization efficiency decreased with the increase of TN surface loading. The cooperation between DAMO organisms and Anammox bacteria played the key role in the TN removal. Based on these results, the proof-of-concept feasibility of a single-stage MBfR coupling nitritation-Anammox-DAMO for complete nitrogen removal was also tested through integrating the model with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) processes whilst controlling the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration in the simulated system. The maximum TN removal was found to be achieved at the bulk DO concentration of around 0.17gm-3 under the simulation conditions, with the AOB, Anammox bacteria and DAMO organisms coexisting in the biofilm. Biotechnol.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1035-1045
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anammox
  • Biofilm
  • Complete nitrogen removal
  • Denitrifying anaerobic methane oxidation
  • Modeling
  • Nitritation

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