Environmental Technologies for Contaminated Solids, Soils and Sediments
1st cohort

Wendy Mussoline

Enhancing the methane production from untreated rice straw using an anaerobic co-digestion approach with piggery wastewater and pulp and paper mill sludge to optimize energy conversion in farm-scale biogas plants

The research describes an optimized waste-to-energy technology that utilizes agricultural residues for renewable energy, while reducing global methane emissions and maintaining food security. Laboratory-, pilot- and farm-scale anaerobic batch digesters were evaluated to enhance methane production from the anaerobic digestion of untreated rice straw in dry conditions using a novel co-digestion approach.

An existing farm-scale biogas plant loaded with rice straw and piggery wastewater produced 295 MWh in a 422-day digestion cycle. The long acclimation period (approximately 200 days) and low biogas yield (181 LCH4/kgVS) could be enhanced by adding anaerobic sludge from the pulp and paper mill treatment process. In a laboratory setting, the addition of the sludge resulted in a specific methane yield of 335 LCH4/kgVS within 92 days. Hydrolysis of the straw was accelerated, and stable conditions were observed in terms of pH, alkalinity and nutrients. Similar improvements were demonstrated in pilot-scale digesters (1 m3) – a specific methane yield of 231 LCH4/kgVS was achieved in a 93-day digestion cycle with the sludge compared to 189 days without the sludge. Insufficient mixing within the pilot-scale system caused lower overall methane yields than those obtained in the laboratory-scale digesters.

If sufficient mixing and mesophilic conditions are maintained within the farm-scale system, the co-digestion of rice straw with pig wastewater and paper mill sludge (wet weight ratio of 1:1.25:0.5) has the potential to reduce the retention time to three months (versus 422 days) and increase methane yields to over 300 LCH4/kgVS.