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Image of a Toray MBR wastewater treatment plantCredit: Toray Membrane
An image of a RisingSun  membrane module.Credit: RisingSun Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd.
Small Wehrle industrial effluent treatment MBR, Sao PauloCredit: WEHRLE Umwelt GmbH

Industrial MBRs

Compared with municipal effluents, industrial effluents tend to contain higher pollutant concentrations, which may vary across daily and seasonal cycles. Industrial effluents also tend to contain less biodegradable organic matter.

Significant variations in water quality and treatability can be found across the different industrial sectors, e.g. between food & beverage and landfill leachate.

Berghof membrane skid, single loop
Credit: Berghof Membranes

Industrial MBRs − an introduction

Membrane bioreactors have been applied to treat effluent in a number of industrial sectors including food and beverage, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, landfill leachate and ship effluent. MBRs for industrial effluent treatment operate at lower fluxes and longer hydraulic residence than those implemented for municipal wastewaters.

Industrial MBRs − an introduction
A photo of RisingSun membranes being installed in a tank onsite.
Credit: RisingSun Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

Installing an MBR for industrial wastewater treatment

Industrial wastewater treatment technologies and systems tend to be more diverse than municipal ones, reflecting the much wider range of pollutants, their concentrations and their temporal variability in industrial effluents. The large fluctuations in effluent quality usually necessitate equalisation upstream of the MBR.

Installing an MBR for industrial wastewater treatment

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Toray tank bubbling
Credit: Toray


The petroleum industry comprises three aspects: exploration, refining and petrochemical. It is only in the latter two areas that MBRs have been implemented, the largest industrial MBRs installed worldwide being associated with refining.

Industrial MBRs − petroleum sector
An image of an MBR skid on board a ship.
Credit: Wärtsilä Marine


Unlike most land-based sewage treatment, the design of marine effluent systems is severely constrained by confined space (both area and height), in addition to the high strength of the waste and the requirement for robustness associated with the remote location of marine vessels.

Industrial MBRs − ship effluents

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An image of a Berghof MBR plant.
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Food and beverage

The food and beverage industry is the industrial sector in which most MBRs have been implemented. MBRs have been applied for fermentation e.g. of alcoholic beverages, dairy, cereals, edible oils and confectionary effluents. F&B effluents are typically high in organic loading, with BOD and COD concentrations 5−100 times higher than for domestic wastewater.

Industrial MBRs − food and beverage sector
An image of a Toray MBR plant.
Credit: Toray


Pharmaceutical production employs fermentation and biological production (i.e. the use of animals to generate products) as well as chemical synthesis. Effluent compositions therefore vary widely with the production method used, and include trace levels of residual active pharmaceutical compounds which can be biorefractory in nature.

Industrial MBRs − pharmaceutical sector
An image of a WEHRLE MBR plant.
Credit: WEHRLE Umwelt GmbH

Landfill leachate

Landfill leachate is generated from liquids which either form part of the waste entering the landfill or percolate through the landfill as rainwater. The biorefractory component of the organic matter in the effluent tends to increase with the age of the effluent, characterised by the low BOD:COD ratio in aged leachates.

Industrial MBRs − landfill leachate sector
An image of a RisingSun  membrane module.
Credit: RisingSun Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

Pulp and paper

Pulp and paper effluent is characterised by high levels of suspended solids, COD and BOD produced from the chemical digestion process used in the preparation of the pulp. Chlorinated organic (and possibly toxic) products are generated by the bleaching process.

Industrial MBRs − pulp and paper sector
Image of Sinap membranes in a tank.
Credit: Shanghai SINAP


Textile effluents are highly variable in composition, reflecting the diversity of textile processes which include sizing (the use of macromolecular reagents to modify the textile properties), scouring (degreasing of wool), bleaching, mercerising (dyeing pretreatment with caustic soda) and dyeing.

Industrial MBRs − textiles sector