The main objective of this study was to investigate the degradation efficiency of centralized biogas plants and provide guidance for the design of more efficient digester and post-digestion systems. These centralized biogas plants in Denmark digest manure together with organic waste from the food industry to generate biogas, which is used for electricity and thermal energy. A total of 20 such plants are currently active in Denmark, most of which were included in the investigation. From the plants, samples were obtained from various steps of the process. Samples were analysed and the residual biogas potential determined by batch post-digestion at various temperature levels. Results were correlated with plant characteristics and production statistics in order to judge the efficiency of various digestion concepts. A simplified model based on a two-step biogas production process was developed and experimental data were used to determine kinetic constants. Experimental results and analysis combined with model simulations showed that the residual biogas potential in the main digestion step effluent is originating mainly from undegraded particulate matter in the biomass. For thermophilic plants 93% of the residual biogas potential was originating from particulate matter and 88% for the mesophilic biogas plants. This indicates that the residual biogas potential is mainly due to insufficient retention time in the main digestion step for hydrolysis of particulate material and that the hydrolysis step is the methane yield limiting factor, while conversion of soluble material such as VFA is the rate limiting factor critical for achieving a stable process.
Water Science and Technology, 2006, Vol 54, Issue 2, p. 237-244