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Solid-state anaerobic digestion for integrated ethanol production



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Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a biochemical process consisting of the microbiological conversion of organic materials for the purpose of generating biogas. Biogas is typically composed of 50 to 70% methane (CH4) and 50 to 30% carbon dioxide (CO2) with trace amounts of other compounds. Anaerobic digestion technology is a bioprocessing technology that has the potential to be integrated into an ethanol facility to further capture energy, in the form of methane gas, for use in a combined heat and power (CHP) generator or for integration into the natural gas pipeline grid after undergoing an upgrading process. The most simplistic design of an AD system is the solid state digester (SSD) which is able to process very high solids content materials (greater than 15% solids). A SSD has the potential to be utilized as a manure management system in a beef cattle feedlot and it has the potential to integrate seamlessly into a combined ethanol- feedlot operation to capitalize on the eco-cluster concept in bioenergy production. This thesis investigates the biogas and digestate composition seen from four material blends in a solid-state digester (SSD) system operated as a batch reactor. Wet distiller grains (WDG) from a grain ethanol process and cattle manure were the substrates investigated. To assess the biogas composition the system was operated over a period of time to achieve a quasi steady state within the microbial population to maximize the CH4 concentration in the biogas composition. To assess the robustness of the microbial population within each substrate blend, the biogas concentrations were measured over three cycle periods where a portion of the used substrate was replaced with an equal amount of fresh substrate. The digestate composition was analyzed at the end of each of the cycles and compared with the raw substrate to determine changes in solids and nutrient values. The biogas production calculated in this study determined 0.17, 0.21, 0.18, and 0.12L per gram (VS) within 100% WDG, 75%WDG and 25% manure, 25% WDG and 75% manure and the 100% manure substrate (Group 1 through 4) respectively, averaged over all three digestion cycles. At the end of three cycles of digestion the biogas within the substrate blend containing 25% WDG and 75% manure (Group 3) achieved a measured CH4 concentration of 49% and the biogas within the 100% manure substrate (Group 4) achieved a 59% concentration of CH4. The duration for each of Group 3 and Group 4 to achieve the production of viable biogas was 100 and 90 days of operation respectively. Thus it can be concluded that a SSD system start up duration will be between three and four months in duration. The gas data gathered in this research study indicates Group 3 had the most robust methanogenic culture established as it has the lowest overall N2 and CO2 concentration detected in the biogas, and the most consistent performance of CH4 production during each cycle. The investigation conducted on the nutrient data gathered in this research supports the conclusion drawn from the gas data regarding the overall methanogenic performance of the substrate blends. The nutrient data for Group 3 maintained an average carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio of 25:1 over all three digestion cycles. The nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and sulphur components of the manure fertilizer value were maintained through the digestion process of this investigation thus typical manure application rate calculations are applicable when field applying digestate.



ethanol, anaerobic digestion, WDG, biomass, manure, bioenergy



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering


Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering


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