Biogas generation potential of coconut copra in the anaerobic digestion process.
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Pacific Island Countries (PICs) currently rely heavily on imported, expensive and unsustainable fossil fuels as their primary source for energy production. Establishing an alternative energy source from local resources would therefore have considerable benefits for many Island communities. Coconut copra is high in biodegradable organic carbon and is found growing abundantly in PICs. One alternative use for this local resource would potentially be the conversion of the coconut copra into a valuable and useful energy source through biological processes, such as anaerobic digestion. The purpose of this research was to investigate the biogas generation potential of coconut copra as a carbon source using anaerobic digestion processes. Both batch and continuously stirred reactors (CSTRs) in addition to the environmental and operating variables that affect the production of biogas were investigated in order to optimize methane production and increase the overall conversion efficiencies of organic matter to methane.
The results suggest that coconut copra is amenable to anaerobic digestion due to the high theoretical methane yields from the substrate’s high lipid content. However, the optimal organic loading rate (OLR) was limited to within a narrow range of 3.6-6 g VS (2.4 - 4 g VS/L Reactor) for the batch reactors and a maximum of 0.420 L CH4/ g VS was achieved at an OLR of 3.6 g VS. OLRs exceeding 15 g VS resulted in low pH values and negligible methane production due to substrate overloading. High average methane yields of 0.708 L CH4/ g VS•day were also successfully achieved for the CSTRs and increased mixing was observed to have an improved effect on methane production. However, the addition of nitrogen and phosphorus supplements failed to increase biological activity and ultimately resulted in the accumulation of ammonia to concentrations toxic to methanogenic bacteria. The failure of an accelerated CSTR start-up procedure also reinforced the requirement for a gradual and steady acclimated period for anaerobic digestion of this particular substrate.