Pilot-scale comparison of biological nutrient removal (BNR) using intermittent and continuous ammonia-based low dissolved oxygen aeration control systems

Water Sci Technol. 2022 Jan;85(2):578-590. doi: 10.2166/wst.2021.630.


Sensor driven aeration control strategies have recently been developed as a means to efficiently carry out biological nutrient removal (BNR) and reduce aeration costs in wastewater treatment plants. Under load-based aeration control, often implemented as ammonia-based aeration control (ABAC), airflow is regulated to meet desired effluent standards without specifically setting dissolved oxygen (DO) targets. Another approach to reduce aeration requirements is to constantly maintain low DO conditions and allow the microbial community to adapt to the low-DO environment. In this study, we compared the performance of two pilot-scale BNR treatment trains that simultaneously used ABAC and low-DO operation to evaluate the combination of these two strategies. One pilot plant was operated with continuous ABAC while the other one used intermittent ABAC. Both processes achieved greater than 90% total Kjehldal nitrogen (TKN) removal, 60% total nitrogen removal, and nearly 90% total phosphorus removal. Increasing the solids retention time (SRT) during the period of cold (∼12 °C) water temperatures helped maintain ammonia removal performance under low-DO conditions. However, both processes experienced poor solids settling characteristics during winter. While settling was recovered under warmer temperatures, improving settling quality remains a challenge under low-DO operation.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia*
  • Bioreactors
  • Nutrients
  • Oxygen
  • Sewage
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid*


  • Sewage
  • Ammonia
  • Oxygen