Evaluation of parameters for monitoring an anaerobic co-digestion process
The system investigated in this study is an anaerobic digester at a municipal wastewater treatment plant operating on sludge from the wastewater treatment, co-digested with carbohydrate-rich food-processing waste. The digester is run below maximum capacity to prevent overload. Process monitoring at present is not extensive, even for the measurement of on-line gas production rate and off-line pH. Much could be gained if a better program for monitoring and control was developed, so that the full capacity of the system could be utilised without the risk of overload. The only limit presently set for correct process operation is that the pH should be above 6.8. In the present investigation, the pH was compared with alkalinity, gas production rate, gas composition and the concentration of volatile fatty acids (VFA). Changes in organic load were monitored in the full-scale anaerobic digester and in laboratory-scale models of the plant. Gas-phase parameters showed a slow response to changes in load. The VFA concentrations were superior for indicating overload of the microbial system, but alkalinity and pH also proved to be good monitoring parameters. The possibility of using pH as a process indicator is, however, strongly dependent on the buffering capacity. In this study, a minor change in the amount of carbohydrates in the substrate had drastic effects on the buffering effect of the system.
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