A consilience model to describe N2O production during biological N removal
Nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas, is produced during biological nitrogen conversion in wastewater treatment operations. Complex mechanisms underlie N2O production by autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms, which continue to be unravelled. Mathematical models that describe nitric oxide (NO) and N2O dynamics have been proposed. Here, a first comprehensive model that considers all relevant NO and N2O production and consumption mechanisms is proposed. The model describes autotrophic NO production by ammonia oxidizing bacteria associated with ammonia oxidation and with nitrite reduction, followed by NO reduction to N2O. It also considers NO and N2O as intermediates in heterotrophic denitrification in a 4-step model. Three biological NO and N2O production pathways are accounted for, improving the capabilities of existing models while not increasing their complexity. Abiotic contributions from NH2OH and HNO2 reactions are also included. The consilient model structure can theoretically predict NO and N2O emissions under a wide range of operating conditions and will help develop mitigation strategies.