On-Site Analytical Laboratories to Monitor Process Stability Of Anaerobic Digestion Systems

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The anaerobic digestion of complex materials is a highly dynamic, multi-step process, where physicochemical and biochemical reactions take place in sequential and parallel ways.  The stability of the process depends on a delicate balance between the formation and consumption of products. When the concentration of a particular substance reaches the homeostatic equilibrium of certain organism or group of organisms, such balanced is disrupted, and the process becomes upset. If measures to correct the source of the problem are not taken, substrate stabilization and biogas production will progressively decrease, and eventually stop. Recovery of a digester can take several weeks to months, during which, energy generation and waste treatment are not possible, resulting in increased operational costs for the facility. To detect process perturbations and prevent major digester upsets, periodic monitoring is essential.

In this study, analytical laboratories were installed on selected on-farm anaerobic digestion systems in New York State, to periodically monitor key process parameters and to evaluate performance and stability of the operations.  Preliminary results showed that analytical labs were critical to detect process upsets efficiently, particularly in co-digestion systems, where loading rates and influent characteristics are usually variable. The laboratory is rather optional in manure-only operations, where the influent consists of a steady and predictable waste.


Rodrigo Labatut, Cornell University ral32@cornell.edu   

Curt Gooch, Cornell University


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