In order to overcome anaerobic digestion (AD) inhibition due to the large nitrogen content of swine wastewater (SW), air stripping (AS) and other chemical and physical pretreatments were applied on raw SW before AD. The efficiency of these pretreatments on both ammonia removal—recovering ammonia salts to be used as fertilizers in agriculture—and the increase of methane production were assessed in batch tests. Since the pH, temperature, and air flow rate heavily influence AS efficiency and the composition of treated SW, these parameters were set individually or in combination. In more detail, the pH was increased from the natural value of SW to 8 or 10, temperature was increased from the room value to 40 °C, and the air flow rate was increased from zero to 5 Lair LSW−1
. AS was generally more efficient at removing ammonia (up to 97%) from raw (non-treated) SW compared to the other treatments. However, the tested pretreatments were not as efficient as expected in increasing the biogas production, because the methane yields of all pretreated substrates were lower (by about 10–50%) to compared raw SW. The inhibitory effect on AD could have been due to the lack of nutrients and organic matter in the substrate (due to the excessive removal of the pretreatments), the concentration of toxic compounds (such as metal ions or furfural due to water evaporation), and an excess of alkali ions (used to increase the pH in AS). Overall, AS can be considered a sustainable process for the recovery of ammonium sulphate and the removal of other polluting compounds (e.g., organic matter) from SW. Conversely, the use of AS and other chemical and/or thermal processes tested in this study as pretreatments of SW before AD is not advised because these processes appear to reduce methane yields.
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