The applicability of batch tests to assess biomethanation potential of organic waste and assess scale up to continuous reactor systems
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Many of the current methods of assessing anaerobic biodegradability of solid samples require sample modification prior to testing. Steps like sample drying, grinding, re-drying and re-grinding to 2mm or less make the test results difficult to apply to field conditions and could lead to oxygen exposure, possibly distorting the results. Finally, because of a small sample size of about 10-50g w/w, the test result may not be representative of the bulk material.
A new tool dubbed ‘tube’ has been developed, made of 10 cm diameter PVC pipe measuring 43.5 cm long with 3600 ml capacity with caps at both ends. For easy sample introduction, one endcap is fixed while the other is screw capped. A distinctive feature is the wide neck opening of about 10 cm where solid samples can be introduced as is, without further sample modification.
Research has proven the tube applicable across various types of solid organic waste and conditions provided that a suitable organic loading rate is determined. The tube is best operated using 5-7 days pre-digested digested sewage sludge as seed, with minimal mixing and without the addition of nutrients or alkali solution. The test result can be obtained within 4-6 days to 20 days, signifying a 50-75% and 95% substrate degradation, respectively. Irreproducibility seen in some experiments may not only be a function of the seed and the substrate. The organic loading rate (OLR) at which the test is conducted is also influential especially if test is conducted closer to its maximum OLR tolerance where anaerobic process is more erratic.
The performance of a continuous reactor digesting on a similar substrate can be estimated using this new tool. Food waste is established by the tubes to have an ultimate methane potential (B0) of 0.45L CH4/g VS. The same substrate when digested in a continuous reactor will produce about (B) 0.32 L CH4/g VS. The first order rate constant for both systems; batch and continuous are identical at 0.12 to 0.28 d-1. First order kinetics is efficient at modelling the anaerobic degradation when the process is healthy but may be less reliable under an unstable process.
This research recommends the use of kinetics in combination with the experimental data (e.g. HRT, OLR, yield) when planning and designing an industrial plant to avoid overdesign and unnecessary building, maintenance and operating costs.