Optimisation of biogas production from percolating packed bed anaerobic digesters

  • Stephen Hall

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Percolating packed bed digesters were operated successfully in a batch mode using a wheat straw - dairy manure substrate of between 21 and 27% total solids. The vessels used had a nominal 10 1 volume and were constructed of perspex. Temperatures of 25-35°C were used, recirculation rates of 0-15 litres.hr-1 (the digesters having a diameter of 0.18 metres thus corresponding to superficial flow rates of between O and 0.382 l/m2 /hr), solid : liquid ratios of 1:1 to 4:1 and bed heights of 0.26 to 2.05 metres.

    The optima found were a temperature of 35°C, recirculation rate of 3 litres.hr1-, a solid: liquid ratio of 2:1 and a bed height of 1.5 metres. Experiments were conducted for periods of up to 70 days, though operation beyond a 40 day period was found to produce little extra biogas. The performance compared favourably with other high solids waste digesters with gas yields of 0.305 m 3 /kg VS added and solids losses of 47% volatile solids and 64% cellulose being obtained over a 40 day period. No major problems of inhibition or blocking occurred.

    Linking of digesters in series via their recirculation systems was found to be advantageous. Gas yields were found to be increased by approximately 18% and solids losses increased by approximately 20% when the waste was treated in this semicontinuous manner. These increases were found to be a result of the rapid transfer of well-adapted bacteria to the fresh digester. Lag phase in the fresh digester was reduced by three days and potentially inhibitory levels of volatile fatty acids were not present. Concentrations of up to around 5000 ppm VFAs were found during the start-up of batch digesters causing some inhibition of gas production. During semi-continuous operation however concentrations of around 2000 ppm were developed when fresh digesters were linked in, no inhibition occurred and in fact this concentration proved stimulatory to gas production. Experimentation into the optimum retention time of a maximum of three digesters in series was conducted, with retention times of 90, 60 and 30 days being considered. A 30 day retention period was found to depress gas production due to unstable conditions when fresh digesters were added by up to 32% compared with Batch Operation. Gas production was increased at both 60 and 90 day retention times by amounts similar to those previously stated. A retention time of 60 days was found to be optimum as little extra gas was produced after this time, with volatile solids losses being increased by only 9.3% by operating for a further 30 days.

    Colonisation of the solid substrate was shown to be rapid, by the use of adenosine 51 triphosphate analysis, gas production rate and electron microscope analysis. In addition a dynamic bacterial population appeared to be present in the solid phase with the rates of growth and attachment being approximately equal to the rates of decay and detachment. When digesters were operating in their steady phase, methanogens were present in the liquor at concentrations of between 10 6 - 10 7 /ml and non-methanogens at between 10 7 - 108 /ml showing a large population of bacteria to be present for the inoculation of fresh digesters.
    Date of AwardNov 1986
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Polytechnic of Wales
    SupervisorFreda Hawkes (Supervisor) & Dennis Hawkes (Supervisor)

    Cite this