Development and Validation of a Decision Support System for the Integrated Operation of Membrane Bioreactors

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Comas, Joaquim; Monclús, Hèctor; Ferrero, Giuliana; Rodríguez-Roda, Ignasi; Sancho, Luis; Ayesa, Eduardo
decision support systems; expert system; membrane bioreactor; fouling; automatic control; permeability
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Membrane bioreactor technology in wastewater treatment and re-use is currently challenging traditional wastewater methods. However, although this technology presents many advantages as in most membrane filtration processes the permeate flux and permeability declines during filtration due to membrane fouling. Therefore controlling membrane fouling is the key issue in MBR operation. Nevertheless, membrane fouling is a very complicated phenomenon that results from multiple causes. Thus an intelligent Decision Support System for the integrated operation of membrane bioreactors has been developed. This Decision Support System, based on empiric and heuristic knowledge, gathers on-line and off-line information about both the biological and physical processes and integrates artificial intelligence techniques with advanced control algorithms to infer the process performance state before launching the corresponding operation strategy. When the process performance regime is favourable, the decision support system enables to optimise aeration energy while controlling fouling. The aeration control has been successfully validated at pilot scale for saving about 20% of energy and therefore reducing operational costs. Besides, the development of several knowledge-based modules (e.g. start-up or operational problems among others) ensures a robust and complete system adaptable to all kind of membranes while providing higher reliability.