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Monitoring and control of anaerobic digestion processes: a review and some research challenges

For methane-based energy production – where methane is recovered from organic waste – to be effective, the anaerobic digestion process must make use of sophisticated monitoring and control tools. Over the years, research in this field has progressed and has been applied to a variety of waste sources, including sludge from sewagetreatment plants and liquid effluents – largely from industrial sources – to the organic fraction of municipal solid waste and agricultural waste.

Methane fluidised bed reactor. © INRA, MOLETTA Renatto
Updated on 01/25/2016
Published on 12/03/2015

Sustainably managing and leveraging waste

Treatment times have also changed in relation to the waste being treated, moving from a timeframe of minutes or hours, to one of days or weeks. As precision control of the closed loop system is required when dealing with short treatment times, anaerobic digestion plant operators are now included in decision-making processes to make optimal use of the plant when converting complex solid wastes that require longer treatment times.

Control objectives have also changed from the regulation of key variables, measured online, to the prediction of overall process performance, based on global offline measurements.

Promising techniques and controlled processes

The need to predict methane production and biodegradation rates of organic matter more accurately has impacted the complexity of instruments and technology used. These must be able to provide more detailed information on the organic waste (biochemical fractions, such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, etc.) as well as its bioaccessibility.

While a considerable body of literature exists on determining biodegredation rates based on the nature of the organic matter, only a few papers deal with assessing bioaccessibility. Consequently, emphasis is being placed on the potential of promising technologies, such as spectral analysis, and attention focused on new, forthcoming technologies to control anaerobic digestion processes.

find out more

Julie Jimenez, Eric Latrille, Jérôme Harmand, Angel Robles, José Ferrer, Daniel Gaida, Christian Wolf, Francis Mairet, Olivier Bernard and al., Instrumentation and control of anaerobic digestion processes: a review and some research challengesReviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology, December 2015, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 615-648