Anaerobic digestion activities abound

By Anna Austin
Several projects centered on developing anaerobic digestion technology have emerged within the United States and United Kingdom in the past month.

Michigan State University will utilize $3 million in state and foundation grants to construct an anaerobic digestion research and education center where technology could be developed for small-scale farms to turn animal waste into heat, electricity and other products. Researchers at the facility, to be colocated with the university's farm animal and environmental research complex, will seek to develop and commercialize turnkey digesters and microturbine modules to address issues concerning food contamination, pollutant runoff, odor and greenhouse gas emissions from animal manure at small- to mid-sized farms. Additionally, MSU plans to test related equipment and processes, so the center can generate its own electricity. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2009.

Pennsylvania-based Philadelphia Mixing Solutions introduced its Momentous Flow, a mixing technology for anaerobic digestion in wastewater, biofuel and agricultural markets. The system has a rotating component but no baffles to release trapped gas in the upper part of the vessel, creating a centrifugal force that pushes methane bubbles from anaerobic digestion to the center of rotation. They coalesce and escape from the liquid in a collection cap, thus the methane is harnessed to power digestion operations. The company said the technology significantly reduces or eliminates the need to power equipment from the grid. It also offers faster installation, lower operating and maintenance costs, and efficient generation of reusable energy from methane.

In the U.K., the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Program announced the launch of two funding opportunities offering the waste and recycling sector a total of £26 million ($33.8 million) to support various programs throughout the country. The Anaerobic Digestion Demonstration Program will provide £10 million ($13 million) to support three to six projects in England focusing on the development of commercial-scale anaerobic digestion technology to maximize positive environmental impacts and cost-effective biogas production. Through the Organics Capital Grant Program, £16 million ($20.8 million) will be available to facilitate the development of a food and waste recycling infrastructure, such as in-vessel composting or anaerobic digestion. The program will be open to projects in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, aiming to increase the country's capacity to convert landfill waste into approximately 400,000 metric tons of quality products by March 2011.