Anaerobic digestion of secondary residuals from an anaerobic bioreactor at a brewery to enhance bioenergy generation

  • Benjamin T. Bocher
  • Matthew T. Agler
  • Marcelo L. Garcia
  • Allen R. Beers
  • Largus T. AngenentEmail author
Original Paper


Many beer breweries use high-rate anaerobic digestion (AD) systems to treat their soluble high-strength wastewater. Biogas from these AD systems is used to offset nonrenewable energy utilization in the brewery. With increasing nonrenewable energy costs, interest has mounted to also digest secondary residuals from the high-rate digester effluent, which consists of yeast cells, bacteria, methanogens, and small (hemi)cellulosic particles. Mesophilic (37 °C) and thermophilic (55 °C) lab-scale, low-rate continuously-stirred anaerobic digestion (CSAD) bioreactors were operated for 258 days by feeding secondary residuals at a volatile solids (VS) concentration of ∼40 g l−1. At a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 15 days and a VS loading rate of 2.7 g VS l−1 day−1, the mesophilic bioreactor showed an average specific volumetric biogas production rate of 0.88 l CH4 l−1 day−1 and an effluent VS concentration of 22.2 g VS l−1 (43.0% VS removal efficiency) while the thermophilic bioreactor displayed similar performances. The overall methane yield for both systems was 0.21 l CH4 g−1 VS fed and 0.47–0.48 l CH4 g−1 VS removed. A primary limitation of thermophilic digestion of this protein-rich waste is the inhibition of methanogens due to higher nondissociated (free) ammonia (NH3) concentrations under similar total ammonium (NH4+) concentrations at equilibrium. Since thermophilic AD did not result in advantageous methane production rates or yields, mesophilic AD was, therefore, superior in treating secondary residuals from high-rate AD effluent. An additional digester to convert secondary residuals to methane may increase the total biogas generation at the brewery by 8% compared to just conventional high-rate digestion of brewery wastewater alone.


Anaerobic digestion Methane yield Secondary residuals Continuously-stirred anaerobic digestion Bioenergy 



We would like to acknowledge the financial support of Anheuser-Busch Inc., St. Louis, MO and thank Thea Cummings for her support in feeding the bioreactors and Jelte Lanting (Biothane Corporation, Camden, NJ) for consulting on the operating conditions.


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin T. Bocher
    • 1
  • Matthew T. Agler
    • 1
  • Marcelo L. Garcia
    • 1
  • Allen R. Beers
    • 2
  • Largus T. Angenent
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical EngineeringWashington University in St LouisSt LouisUSA
  2. 2.Anheuser-Busch, Inc.St LouisUSA

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