Water research

Fate and effect of naphthenic acids on oil refinery activated sludge wastewater treatment systems.

PMID 23141768


Naphthenic acids (NAs) are a complex group of alkyl-substituted acyclic, monocyclic and polycyclic carboxylic acids present in oil sands process waters, crude oil, refinery wastewater and petroleum products. Crude oil, desalter brine, influent, activated sludge mixed liquor and effluent refinery samples were received from six United States refineries. The total acid number (TAN) of the six crudes tested ranged from 0.12 to 1.5 mg KOH/g crude oil and correlated to the total NA concentration in the crudes. The total NA concentration in the desalter brine, influent, activated sludge mixed liquor and effluent samples ranged from 4.2 to 40.4, 4.5 to 16.6, 9.6 to 140.3 and 2.8 to 11.6 mg NA/L, respectively. The NAs in all wastewater streams accounted for less than 16% of the total COD, indicating that many other organic compounds are present and that NAs are a minor component in refinery wastewaters. Susceptibility tests showed that none of the activated sludge heterotrophic microcosms was completely inhibited by NAs up to 400 mg/L. Growth inhibition ranging from 10 to 59% was observed in all microcosms at and above 100 mg NA/L. NAs chronically-sorbed to activated sludge mixed liquor biomass and powdered activated carbon (PAC) were recalcitrant and persistent. More than 80% of the total NAs remained in the solid phase at the end of the 10-day desorption period (five successive desorption steps). Throughout a 90-day incubation period, the total NA concentration decreased by 33 and 51% in PAC-free and PAC-containing mixed liquor microcosms, respectively. The lower molecular weight fraction of NAs was preferentially degraded in both mixed liquors. The persistence of the residual, higher molecular weight NAs is likely a combination of molecular recalcitrance and decreased bioavailability when chronically-sorbed to the biomass and/or PAC.

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70340 Naphthenic acid, technical