This study aimed to assess the efficiency of removal of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from process gases from a food industry plant in East Poland, producing high-quality animal (goose, duck, and pig) and vegetable fats, using a two-stage method which is a combination of biological purification and membrane-separation. The research, conducted on the semi-technical scale, compared the effects of traditional and two-stage biofiltration carried out under the same process conditions. The concentrations of VOCs in process gases were measured by means of a multi-gas detector. Additionally the temperature and humidity of gases were determined by a thermoanemometer under filter bed, following the EU and Polish National Standard Methods Two different types of filling materials (the mix of stumpwood chips and bark, and the mix of stumpwood chips, bark, and compost) and two types of membranes (three-layer semi-permeable membrane fabrics were used, with differences in air permeability and water tightness) were analyzed. During all processes basic operational parameters, the biofilters were controlled, including surface load, volumetric load, duration of gas contact with the filling layer, flow rate, and pressure drops (in the biofilter and on the membrane). The analyzed gases were characterized by very high variability of VOC concentrations (ranging from 350 ppb to 11,170 ppb). The effectiveness of VOC removal (REvoc) was calculated by comparing the analytical results of raw and purified gases. The effectiveness of VOC removal with the application of traditional biofiltration during the experiment varied between 82% to 97% and was related to different parameters of the filling materials (mainly specific surface and moisture), reaching lower value for the mix of stumpwood chips and bark filling. The obtained results showed that the application of membrane improved the efficiency of biofiltration in all the analysed cases from 7% to 9%. The highest effectiveness was obtained using the filter bed in the form of stumpwood chips, bark, and compost in connection with the more permeable membrane. It was maintained between 96% to 99%, reaching an average value of 98%. The selection of the membrane should be determined by its permeability and the values of flow resistance.
Keywords: biofiltration; efficiency; filter bed; food industry; membrane; volatile organic compounds (VOCs).