Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion of abattoir solid wastes is not common in the United States, UK, or elsewhere, despite the potential for stabilization of the solid residues with the added bonus of fuel gas production. Cooper et al. [30] looked at the potential in New Zealand for production of methane from both the solid and liquid fraction of abattoir wastes. Based on tests carried out by Buswell and Hatfield in 1939, they concluded that paunch contents and fecal matter would not give an economic return. In these very early tests it was reported that a retention time of 38-40 days might be required and that the expected gas yield would be 2500 ft3/lb solids added (156 m3/kg). In the UK the first of a new generation of well-mixed digestion plants to treat slaughterhouse wastes was installed in 1984 to treat all the paunch wastes, blood, and settlement tank solids produced by a small abattoir in Shropshire. The operation and performance of a 3531 ft3 (100 m3) demonstration-scale anaerobic digester treating cattle and lamb paunch contents, blood, and process wastewaters from a slaughterhouse was described by Banks [4]. Anaerobic digestion of the solid fraction of abattoir wastes suffers from low methane production and solid reduction as well as requiring a longer retention time compared to sewage and food processing wastes [30]. Steiner et al. [60] reported the failure of a digester when treating a mixture of abattoir wastes. The mixture contained 13% of rumen and intestine contents, 25% of manure from animal buildings, 44% of surplus sludge from an aerobic sewage treatment plant, and 19% fat derived from the fat separator, and exhibited a COD of 165 g/L, a BOD of 112 g/L, a dry weight of 120 g/L, and a volatile solids concentration of 105 g/L consisting of 25% fat and 23% protein. The experiment was carried out in a cylindrical completely mixed reactor with a capacity of 0.07 ft3 (2 L). When the organic loading rate was raised to more than 73 lb VS/103 gal day (8.75 g VS/L day), digestion failure occurred and was caused by enrichment of volatile acids in the digester. In his paper, Banks [4] also mentioned serious problems associated with the accumulation of ammonia concentration in the process. Several other authors also indicate that where blood and fat form a significant proportion of the feedstock it is found to be digestible in only limited quantities due to an inhibitory effect on methanogenesis, thought to be caused by accumulation of toxic intermediates produced by the hydrolysis/acidification stages [57,92,93].

Using a two-stage anaerobic process, Banks and Wang [94] successfully overcame the toxicity problems associated with the accumulation of ammonia and volatile fatty acids when treating a mixture of cattle paunch contents and cattle blood. The first-stage reactor was operated in a hydraulic flush mode to maintain a significantly shorter liquid retention time than the solids retention time of the fibrous components in the feedstock. The firststage reactor was run in this mode using solids retention times of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 days with liquid retention of between 2 and 5 days. Up to 87% solid reductions were achieved compared to a maximum of 50% when the control reactor was operated in single-pass mode with solids and liquid retentions of equal duration. The liquid effluent from the first stage hydrolysis reactor was treated by a second-stage completely-mixed immobilized-cell digester. Operated at a retention time of between 2 and 10 days with loading rates in the range of 36-437 lb/103 ft3 day (0.58-7.0 kg COD/m3 day), the second stage reactor achieved a COD removal of 65-78% with a methane conversion efficiency between 2 and 4 ft3 CH4/lb COD removed (0.12-0.25 m3 CH4/kg COD removed).

Other than these few reports there has been little research on the anaerobic digestion of the solid waste fraction and it is clear that certain conditions and waste types lead to operational instability. Early work questions the economic viability of the digestion process when used only for the treatment of paunch content and intestinal fecal material and it may be necessary to look at the codigestion of slaughterhouse waste fractions with other waste materials. One successful operation is the Kristianstad biogas plant in Sweden, which coprocesses organic household waste, animal manure, gastrointestinal waste from two slaughterhouses, biosludge from a distillery, and some vegetable processing waste [95]. The slaughterhouse waste fraction is 24,600 tonnes per annum of a total throughput of 71,200 tonnes which is treated in the 1.2 Mgal (4500 m3) digester. The plant biogas production was equivalent to 20,000 MWh and the digester residue is returned to the land as a fertilizer. The plant represents an environmentally friendly method of waste treatment and appears to have overcome the problems of trying to digest slaughterhouse solid wastes in isolation.

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