Mechanism of zeolite activity in biogas co-digestion

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Institutionen för fysik, kemi och biologi


Biogas is a source of renewable energy and is produced at anaerobic conditions. The gas consists mainly of methane (55-70 %) and carbon dioxide (30-45 %). Biogas can be used as vehicle fuel after the gas has been upgraded to a methane content of approximately 97 %. There are several companies in Sweden producing biogas. Svensk biogas AB in Linköping is one of the largest. The company has two biogas production plants; one in Linköping and one in Norrköping.

To meet the surge demand for biogas it is not only important to increase the volumetric capacity of the digesters, but also to optimize the process at the existing production plants in different ways. Zeolites, a clay mineral, have earlier been shown to have a positive effect on anaerobic digestion of certain substrates. The aim of this master’s thesis was to investigate if the organic loading rate could be increased and/or if the hydraulic retention time could be reduced by addition of zeolites to a reactor treating slaughterhouse waste as a substrate. The aim was further to investigate which substance/substances that zeolites possibly could affect.

Addition of the zeolite clinoptilolite in a continuously stirred lab tank reactor showed a significantly lower accumulation of volatile fatty acids compared to that in a control reactor without zeolites added, when the hydraulic retention time was kept low (30 days) and the organic loading rate was high (4.8 kg VS/ (m3 × day)). The same results were observed upon zeolite addition in a batch experiment, which also showed a decreased lag phase. Neither the specific gas production nor the methane concentration was significantly affected by addition of zeolites. Furthermore, addition of a possible inhibitor, long-chain fatty acids (LCFA), increased the lag phase further when slaughterhouse waste was used as a substrate. The conclusion from the observed results is that a metabolite or metabolites produced during the anaerobic degradation is/are the reason to inhibition and an increased lag phase.

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