Digestion Systems

Anaerobic digestion facilities have been used for the management of animal slurries for many years, they can treat most easily biodegradable waste products, including everything of organic or vegetable origin. Recent developments in anaerobic digestion technology have allowed the expansion of feedstocks to include municipal solid wastes, biosolids, and organic industrial waste (e.g., seafood-processing wastes). Lawn and garden, or "green" residues, may also be included, but care should be taken to avoid woody materials with high lignin content that requires a much longer decomposition time [19]. The digestion system seems to work best with a feedstock mixture of 15-25% solids. This may necessitate the addition of some liquid,

Figure 14 Scheme of reactions produced during anaerobic treatment.

providing an opportunity for the treatment of wastewater with high concentrations of organic contaminants. A typical anaerobic system diagram is shown in Fig. 15.

The flow of anaerobic digestion resembles that of an activated sludge process except that it occurs in the absence of oxygen. Therefore, it is essential to have a good sealing of the digestion tanks since oxygen kills some of the anaerobic bacteria present and presence of air may easily disrupt the process. From the anaerobic digester the effluent proceeds to a degasifier and to a settler from which the wastewater is discharged and the solids are recycled. The need for recycling is attributed to the fact that anaerobic digestion proceeds at a much slower rate than aerobic processes, thereby requiring more time and more biomass to achieve high removal efficiencies. The amount of time required for anaerobic digestion depends upon its composition and the temperature maintained in the digester because anaerobic processes are also sensitive to temperature. Mesophilic digestion occurs at approximately 35°C, and requires 12-30 days for processing. Thermophilic processes make use of higher temperatures (55°C) to speed up the reaction time to 6-14 days. Mixing the contents is not always necessary, but is generally preferred, as it leads to more efficient digestion by providing uniform conditions in the vessel and speeds up the biological reactions.

Anaerobic processes have been applied in seafood-processing wastewaters, obtaining high removal efficiencies (75-80%) with loads of 3 or 4 kg of COD/m3 day [20,21].

In total, 60-70% of the gas produced by a balanced and well-functioning system consists of methane, with the rest being mostly carbon dioxide and minor amounts of nitrogen and hydrogen. This biogas is an ideal source of fuel, resulting in low-cost electricity and providing steam for use in the stirring and heating of digestion tanks.

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Figure 15 Diagram of an anaerobic digestion process.

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