A 20 L hollow-fiber submerged anaerobic membrane bioreactor (SAnMBR) was used to treat real domestic wastewater at 25 °C with hydraulic retention times (HRTs) ranging from 4 to 12 h. The process performance was evaluated by organic removal efficiency, biogas production, sludge yield, and filtration behaviors during one-year's operation. For HRTs ranging between 6 and 12 h, the AnMBR showed good organic removal efficiency with chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) removal efficiencies of about 89% and 93%, respectively. The biogas yield was 0.26 L-gas/g-CODfed, with approximately 80% methane content, and the sludge yield was 0.07–0.11 g-VSS/g-CODrem. While at an HRT of 4 h, with the higher wastewater treatment capacity and organic loading rate (OLR), the biogas production was lower (0.17 L-gas/g-CODfed), and the sludge production was higher (0.22 g-VSS/g-CODrem). The organic removal performance (COD 84% and BOD 89%) at HRT of 4 h was acceptable due to the effective separation effect of the membrane filtration process. According to COD balance analysis, the low biogas yield and high sludge yield at HRT of 4 h were due to insufficient biodegradation under an OLR of 2.05 g-COD/L-reactor/d. Theoretical calculations based on Henry's law indicate that the ideal methane content in the biogas should be 82–85% when the operational temperature was 25 °C. To achieve a high flux and sustainable AnMBR operation, the impact of mixed liquor suspended solid (MLSS) and gas sparging velocity (GSV) on the filtration performance was analyzed. The critical flux increased with increase in the GSV from 24.2 to 174.3 m/h, but decreased with increase in the MLSS concentration from 8.2 to 20.2 g/L. Therefore, decreasing fouling rate to 0.8–1.2 kPa/d by efficiently controlling GSV and MLSS, sustainable operation could be achieved at a flux of 0.34 m/d.
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