The removal of ammonia (NH3) by a full scale packed-bed biotrickling filter (packing volume: 3.8 m3; water buffer tank: 20 m3) under fluctuating loading conditions was studied. The unit was operated at an animal house for treatment of exhaust air at an average air contact time of 1.2 s. Continuous long-term ammonia measurements showed average inlet and outlet air concentrations of 14 ppm and 2.4 ppm, respectively, and a removal efficiency of 82%. The average temperature of the water was 16 °C, the pH 6.6, the ammonium concentration 1.9 g N l-1, and the nitrate concentration 1.8 g N l-1; no nitrite was detected. The average ammonia loading and removal rate were 29 and 24 g NH3 m-3 h-1, respectively. A daily and seasonal pattern could be observed in the ammonia removal performance. With increasing outside temperature ammonia loading rate, ammonia removal rate, and ammonia outlet concentration increased, resulting in a net decrease of the ammonia removal efficiency. This phenomenon might be explained by the existence of equilibrium between the ammonia concentration in the outlet air and the concentration of dissolved ammonia in the water, which is influenced by fluctuating air and water temperature. A nitrogen balance indicated that 86% of the removed ammonia-N was discharged or accumulated in the water as ammonium and nitrate, and 5% was emitted as nitrous oxide (N2O). The fluctuating removal patterns that were found suggest that current regulatory performance monitoring practices need to be improved
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