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Storage and pre-treatment of substrates for biogas production

Published 2013

Citation: Bochmann G, Montgomery L. Storage and pre-treatment of substrates for biogas production. The biogas handbook. ISBN 978 0 85709 498 8 2013:85-103.


Biogas substrates are typically moist, which can make them difficult to store because bacteria and mould can grow on them. Ensiling, which involves the production of acid by lactic acid bacteria, is often used to preserve crops cheaply. Biogas substrates are also often fibrous, which can make them difficult to mix and means that some of their energy is locked up within the fibres. Different pre-treatment technologies are being investigated to access the energy in these fibres, to increase the rate of biogas production and to improve the mixing qualities of the substrates. Pre-treatment technologies are based on three principles: physical (including mechanical shear, heat, pressure and electric fields), chemical (acids, bases and solvents) and biological (microbial and enzymatic). Combinations of these principles are also used, including steam explosion, extrusion and thermo-chemical processes. Although many of these processes have been investigated at small scale, few have been analysed at large scale in un-biased studies. Many of these techniques are associated with high energy input (e.g. mechanical and heat pre-treatment), high equipment costs (e.g. mechanical systems where the blades erode) or use large volumes of chemicals (e.g. alkali pre-treatment). Different pre-treatment technologies work better with different substrates, and more research is required in this field to understand which combinations are worthwhile. This chapter describes some of the common pre-treatment technologies along with some advantages and disadvantages.

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