Posts Tagged ‘covered lagoon digesters’

Benefits and Challenges of Biogas Technology

October 14, 2010

Biogas Technology

Anaerobic digestion can convert organic wastes into profitable byproducts as well as reduce their environmental pollution potential. Anaerobic digestion offers the following benefits to an animal feeding operation and the surrounding communities:

  • Electric and thermal energy.
  • Stable liquid fertilizer and high-quality solids for soil amendment.
  • Odor reduction.
  • Reduced groundwater and surface water contamination potential.
  • Potential revenue from sales of digested manure (liquid and solids) and excess electricity and/or processing off-site organic waste.
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; methane is captured and used as a fuel.
  • Revenue from possible reuse of digested solids as livestock bedding.
  • Potential revenue from green energy and carbon credits.

The cost of installing an anaerobic digester depends on the type and size of system, type of livestock operation, and site-specific conditions (EPA AgStar, 2006).  In general, consider the following points when estimating installation/operating costs:

  • Estimate the cost of constructing the system.
  • Estimate the labor and cost of operating the system.
  • Estimate the quantity of gas produced.
  • Estimate the value of the gas produced.
  • Compare operation costs to benefits from operation (include value as a waste-treatment system and the fertilizer value of the sludge and supernatant).

The main financial obligations associated with building an anaerobic digester include capital (equipment and construction and associated site work), project development (technical, legal, and planning consultants; financing; utilities connection; and licensing), operation and maintenance, and training costs.

In making a decision to install a digester, one must realize that the system will require continuous monitoring and routine maintenance and repair that should not be underestimated.  Components should be maintained as recommended by the manufacturers because manure and biogas can be corrosive on metal parts.  In fact, the majority of digester failures over the past few decades were the result of management, not technological, problems.

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Types of Anaerobic Digesters Part 1

June 1, 2010

Types Of Digesters

There are three basic digester designs. All of them can trap methane and reduce fecal coliform bacteria, but they differ in cost, climate suitability and the concentration of manure solids they can digest.

A covered lagoon digester, as the name suggests, consists of a manure storage lagoon with a cover.  The cover traps gas produced during decomposition of the manure.  This type of digester is the least expensive of the three.

Covering a manure storage lagoon is a simple form of digester technology suitable for liquid manure with less than 3-percent solids.  For this type of digester, an impermeable floating cover of industrial fabric covers all or part of the lagoon.  A concrete footing along the edge of the lagoon holds the cover in place with an airtight seal.  Methane produced in the lagoon collects under the cover.  A suction pipe extracts the gas for use.  Covered lagoon digesters require large lagoon volumes and a warm climate.  Covered lagoons have low capital cost, but these systems are not suitable for locations in cooler climates or locations where a high water table exists.

A complete mix digester converts organic waste to biogas in a heated tank above or below ground.  A mechanical or gas mixer keeps the solids in suspension.  Complete mix digesters are expensive to construct and cost more than plug-flow digesters to operate and maintain.

Complete mix digesters are suitable for larger manure volumes having solids concentration of 3 percent to 10 percent.  The reactor is a circular steel or poured concrete container.  During the digestion process, the manure slurry is continuously mixed to keep the solids in suspension.  Biogas accumulates at the top of the digester.  The biogas can be used as fuel for an engine-generator to produce electricity or as boiler fuel to produce steam.  Using waste heat from the engine or boiler to warm the slurry in the digester reduces retention time to less than 20 days.

Plug-flow digesters are suitable for ruminant animal manure that has a solids concentration of 11 percent to 13 percent.  A typical design for a plug-flow system includes a manure collection system, a mixing pit and the digester itself.  In the mixing pit, the addition of water adjusts the proportion of solids in the manure slurry to the optimal consistency.  The digester is a long, rectangular container, usually built below-grade, with an airtight, expandable cover.

New material added to the tank at one end pushes older material to the opposite end.  Coarse solids in ruminant manure form a viscous material as they are digested, limiting solids separation in the digester tank. As a result, the material flows through the tank in a “plug.”  Average retention time (the time a manure “plug” remains in the digester) is 20 to 30 days.

Anaerobic digestion of the manure slurry releases biogas as the material flows through the digester.  A flexible, impermeable cover on the digester traps the gas.  Pipes beneath the cover carry the biogas from the digester to an engine-generator set.

A plug-flow digester requires minimal maintenance.  Waste heat from the engine-generator can be used to heat the digester.  Inside the digester, suspended heating pipes allow hot water to circulate.  The hot water heats the digester to keep the slurry at 25°C to 40°C (77°F to 104°F), a temperature range suitable for methane-producing bacteria.  The hot water can come from recovered waste heat from an engine generator fueled with digester gas or from burning digester gas directly in a boiler.

There are three basic digester designs.  All of them can trap methane and reduce fecal coliform bacteria, but they differ in cost, climate suitability and the concentration of manure solids they can digest.

A covered lagoon digester, as the name suggests, consists of a manure storage lagoon with a cover.  The cover traps gas produced during decomposition of the manure.  This type of digester is the least expensive of the three.

Covering a manure storage lagoon is a simple form of digester technology suitable for liquid manure with less than 3-percent solids.  For this type of digester, an impermeable floating cover of industrial fabric covers all or part of the lagoon.  A concrete footing along the edge of the lagoon holds the cover in place with an airtight seal.  Methane produced in the lagoon collects under the cover.  A suction pipe extracts the gas for use. Covered lagoon digesters require large lagoon volumes and a warm climate.  Covered lagoons have low capital cost, but these systems are not suitable for locations in cooler climates or locations where a high water table exists.

A complete mix digester converts organic waste to biogas in a heated tank above or below ground.  A mechanical or gas mixer keeps the solids in suspension. Complete mix digesters are expensive to construct and cost more than plug-flow digesters to operate and maintain.

Complete mix digesters are suitable for larger manure volumes having solids concentration of 3 percent to 10 percent. The reactor is a circular steel or poured concrete container. During the digestion process, the manure slurry is continuously mixed to keep the solids in suspension. Biogas accumulates at the top of the digester. The biogas can be used as fuel for an engine-generator to produce electricity or as boiler fuel to produce steam. Using waste heat from the engine or boiler to warm the slurry in the digester reduces retention time to less than 20 days.

Plug-flow digesters are suitable for ruminant animal manure that has a solids concentration of 11 percent to 13 percent. A typical design for a plug-flow system includes a manure collection system, a mixing pit and the digester itself. In the mixing pit, the addition of water adjusts the proportion of solids in the manure slurry to the optimal consistency. The digester is a long, rectangular container, usually built below-grade, with an airtight, expandable cover.

New material added to the tank at one end pushes older material to the opposite end. Coarse solids in ruminant manure form a viscous material as they are digested, limiting solids separation in the digester tank. As a result, the material flows through the tank in a “plug.” Average retention time (the time a manure “plug” remains in the digester) is 20 to 30 days.

Anaerobic digestion of the manure slurry releases biogas as the material flows through the digester. A flexible, impermeable cover on the digester traps the gas. Pipes beneath the cover carry the biogas from the digester to an engine-generator set.

A plug-flow digester requires minimal maintenance. Waste heat from the engine-generator can be used to heat the digester. Inside the digester, suspended heating pipes allow hot water to circulate. The hot water heats the digester to keep the slurry at 25°C to 40°C (77°F to 104°F), a temperature range suitable for methane-producing bacteria. The hot water can come from recovered waste heat from an engine generator fueled with digester gas or from burning digester gas directly in a boiler.

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The Process of Anaerobic Digestion

The process of anaerobic digestion occurs in a sequence of stages involving distinct types of bacteria. Hydrolytic and fermentative bacteria first break down the carbohydrates, proteins and fats present in biomass feedstock into fatty acids, alcohol, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ammonia and sulfides. This stage is called “hydrolysis” (or “liquefaction”).

Next, acetogenic (acid-forming) bacteria further digest the products of hydrolysis into acetic acid, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Methanogenic (methane-forming) bacteria then convert these products into biogas.

The combustion of digester gas can supply useful energy in the form of hot air, hot water or steam. After filtering and drying, digester gas is suitable as fuel for an internal combustion engine, which, combined with a generator, can produce electricity. Future applications of digester gas may include electric power production from gas turbines or fuel cells. Digester gas can substitute for natural gas or propane in space heaters, refrigeration equipment, cooking stoves or other equipment. Compressed digester gas can be used as an alternative transportation fuel.

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Manure Digesters

Anaerobic digestion and power generation at the farm level began in the United States in the early 1970s. Several universities conducted basic digester research. In 1978, Cornell University built an early plug-flow digester designed with a capacity to digest the manure from 60 cows.

In the 1980s, new federal tax credits spurred the construction of about 120 plug-flow digesters in the United States. However, many of these systems failed because of poor design or faulty construction. Adverse publicity about system failures and operational problems meant that fewer anaerobic digesters were being built by the end of the decade. High digester cost and declining farm land values reduced the digester industry to a small number of suppliers.

The Tillamook Digester Facility (MEAD Project) began operation in 2003. The facility is located on a site once occupled by a Navy blimp hanger on property owned by the Port of Tillamook Bay. The facility consists of two 400,000-gallon digester cells. The facility uses the biogas to run two Caterpillar engines, each coupled to a 200 kilowatt generator. The facility sells its electric output to the Tillamook PUD. Manure is brought to the facility by truck from participating dairy farms in the Tillamook area.

Anaerobic Digesters For Lagoons Part 1

May 25, 2010

What Is An Anaerobic Lagoon?

An anaerobic lagoon is an earthen impoundment receiving manure from an animal feeding operation in which manure is stored and stabilized by bacterial activity operating without oxygen (compare with an aerobic structure). The statute specifically provides that an anaerobic lagoon does not include a confinement feeding operation structure such as an earthen manure storage basin; a basin connected to unroofed operations (feedlots) which collects and stores runoff produced by rain or a system which collects and treats off gases.

Covered lagoon digesters are the simplest AD system.  These systems typically consist of an anaerobic combined storage and treatment lagoon, an anaerobic lagoon cover, an evaporative pond for the digester effluent, and a gas treatment and/or energy conversion system.  Figure 1 shows a typical schematic for a floating covered anaerobic lagoon.

Covered lagoon digesters typically have a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 40 to 60 days. The HRT is the amount of time a given volume of waste remains in the treatment lagoon.  A collection pipe leading from the digester carries the biogas to either a gas treatment system such as a combustion flare, or to an engine/generator or boiler that uses the biogas to produce electricity and heat.  Following treatment, the digester effluent is often transferred to an evaporative pond or to a storage lagoon prior to land application.

Climate affects the feasibility of using covered lagoon digesters to generate electricity.  Engine/generator systems typically do not produce sufficient waste heat to maintain temperatures high enough in covered lagoon digesters in the winter to sustain consistently high biogas production rates.  Using propane or natural gas to provide additional heat for the lagoon contents is typically not an economically viable option.  Without that additional heat, most covered lagoon digesters produce less biogas in colder temperatures, and little or no gas below 39 FACE= “Symbol”>° F.  As a result, covered lagoon digesters are most appropriate for use in warm climates if the biogas is to be used for energy or heating purposes.

Complete mix digester systems consist of a mix tank, a complete mix digester and a secondary storage or evaporative pond.  The mix tank is either an aboveground tank or concrete in-ground tank that is fed regularly from underfloor waste storage below the animal feedlot.  Waste is stirred in the mix tank to prevent solids from settling in the waste prior to being fed to the digester.  The complete mix digester is essentially a constant-volume aboveground tank or in-ground covered lagoon that is fed daily from the mix tank.  Complete mix digesters with in-ground lagoons often employ covers similar to those used in covered lagoon digesters. In the digester, a mix pump circulates waste material slowly around the heater to maintain a uniform temperature.  Hot water from an engine/generator cogeneration water jacket or boiler is used to heat the digester.  A cylindrical aboveground tank, such as that shown in Figure 2, optimizes biogas production, but is more capital intensive than in-ground tanks.
Source: EPA. Manual for Developing Biogas Systems at Commercial Farms in the United States