About this online course


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Learn the principles, process design, and troubleshooting techniques for anaerobic wastewater treatment and get the full potentials of your anaerobic high-rate reactor.

Maximize the benefits

Anaerobic wastewater treatment is the most energy-efficient technology for treating wastewater. With minimal energy requirement and the conversion of organic pollutants into energy-rich biogas, there's a double energy gain! This course addresses the fundamental principles, the microbial and physicochemical aspects, reactor technology and current and future applications.

The course presents state-of-the-art technology, focusing on sludge bed reactor systems. It also introduces the diagnostic tools used to determine the reasons for any sub-optimal performance. Sometimes anaerobic reactors suffer from sudden failures. In this course you will learn how to perform a diagnosis on the anaerobic reactor and evaluate why failures are experienced and decide what remedial action is required to restore the full potential benefit of the anaerobic system.

Anaerobic wastewater treatment is applied to a wide range of organically polluted wastewaters. At present, over 5000 reactors are installed worldwide.

Is this course for you?

This course will deepen your knowledge of anaerobic wastewater treatment and provides valuable background information for anybody interested in the field. Students, new professionals in the sector, academics, consultants, end-users from various industries will benefit from the course. You will not only learn about the potential of the system but also how to make a diagnosis when the treatment efficiency is lower than expected.

After taking the course you will be able to dimension and operate your own anaerobic reactor and turn a wastewater treatment plant into a real energy factory.

After taking this course you will be able to:

  • Calculate the energy benefits of applying high-rate anaerobic treatment compared with conventional activated sludge systems
  • Dimension anaerobic reactors (UASB/EGSB) for industrial wastewater treatment and judge the merits of novel systems
  • Start-up UASB reactors with low grade seed material
  • Perform a diagnostic analysis on malfunctioning anaerobic reactors
  • Control and monitor anaerobic reactors using the COD mass balance

During the course you will have the opportunity to interact with peers from different countries and institutions working in the field. You will receive feedback from the lecturer and have the chance to work together with other course members on a case-study on which Prof. Dr. Jules van Lier will elaborate further. The connection to industry partners will give you the chance to be acquainted with the world's top suppliers of anaerobic technology and discuss your views with other experts.

This online course includes:

  • Virtual excursion to an anaerobic wastewater treatment plant
  • Virtual lab tour: explanation of SMA and BMP tests in the lab
  • Webinars

State-of-the-art solutions

This course has been designed by TU Delft's international experts on anaerobic wastewater treatment and is based on more than 30 years of research and practical experience in the field.

"It is incredible to see that many industries still use energy-consuming activated sludge treatment systems to treat their organically polluted wastewaters, whereas they can be easily addressed using modern anaerobic high-rate systems with all the benefits they bring! On the other hand, we also see anaerobic reactor systems failing or performing below expectations, because of lack-of early diagnosis to take correction-actions. That's exactly what this course is about: delivering the required knowledge to assess the potentials of anaerobic high-rate treatment for your own case and perform diagnostics and trouble-shooting of anaerobic reactors, based on our state-of-the-art research." – Prof. Jules van Lier.


Anaerobic digestion is a natural mineralization process in which microorganisms stabilize organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The end product of the mineralisation process is called biogas and contains the most reduced form of carbon (CH4) and the most oxidised form of carbon (CO2). The process can be used in engineered applications. For example, it can be used to treat organically polluted industrial wastewater and organic solid wastes.

Anaerobic digestion is both energy efficient and cost effective since it produces renewable energy in the form of biogas and it doesn't consume fossil fuels.

High-rate reactors

Modern high-rate reactors are very compact and allow volumetric loading rates reaching up to 30-40 kg COD/m3 per day. The energy output reaches up to 400 MJ/m3 reactor-installed per day. The excess sludge production from these reactors is low in amount and very high in quality. It even has a market value!


Week 1: The principles of anaerobic high-rate technology using the COD mass balance to calculate biogas/energy production from a given wastewater. Anaerobic microbiology principles.

Week 2: Environmental factors affecting anaerobic treatment: suspended solids, pH, temperature, nutrient availability, toxicity, presence of oxygenated anions (such as sulfate), etc.

Week 3: Basics of high-rate reactor technology: how to uncouple hydraulic retention time from solids retention time. Basic design of UASB reactors, and starting-up reactors.

Week 4: Case study examples of full-scale reactor systems: Paques B.V and Biothane-Veolia. Examples of common anaerobic high-rate reactor applications. Overview of novel high-rate anaerobic reactor systems developed from lab-scale to full-scale.

Week 5: Characterization of wastewater and methanogenic sludge. Set-up of lab assays for diagnostic research.

Week 6: Case studies: full-scale conventional sludge bed systems and novel systems such as AFR, ICX, Memthane anaerobic MBR. Guest lectures covering both Paques B.V. and Biothane-Veolia.

Assessment & Assignments

Participants are expected to complete the following assignments:

  • Assignment 1: making a COD balance over a reactor system and providing energy calculations
  • Assignment 2: preparing a basic design for a common UASB reactor system using a calculation spread sheet
  • Assignment 3: proposing a solution to a process problem case-study
  • Assignment 4: perform a diagnosis to determine the toxicity of a wastewater

Recommended literature:

  • Van Lier, J.B., N. Mahmoud and G. Zeeman (2008). Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment. In: M. Henze, M.C.M. van Loosdrecht, G.A. Ekama, D. Brdjanovic (eds.), Biological Wastewater Treatment, Principles, Modelling and Design, Chapter 16, ISBN: 9781843391883, IWA Publishing, London, UK, p. 415-456.
  • van Lier, J.B., F. P. van der Zee, C.T.M.J. Frijters and M. E. Ersahin (2015). Celebrating 40 Years Anaerobic Sludge Bed Reactors for Industrial Wastewater Treatment. Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/technology, 14(4), 681-702. DOI 10.1007/s11157-015-9375-5



If you successfully complete this course you will earn a professional education certificate and you are eligible to receive 3.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

View sample certificate


This course is primarily geared towards working professionals.

Expected prior knowledge

  • basic knowledge of (bio)chemistry, chemical conversions, redox reactions, formation of precipitates
  • knowledge of wastewater treatment in general
  • basic knowledge of process design and reactor technology


If you have any questions about this course or the TU Delft online learning environment, please visit our Help & Support page.

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  • Starts: Future dates to be announced
  • Fee: €795
  • Group fee: contact us
  • Length: 6 weeks
  • Effort: 4 - 5 hours per week

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