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Novel microwave pre-treatment of feedstocks for anaerobic digestion

The Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) worked with Advanced Microwave Technologies (AMT) on a new method of feedstock pre-treatment for an anaerobic digestion process.

Pre-treating AD feedstocks to increase biogas output

Industrial anaerobic digestion (AD) is a well-established process for converting organic matter (food waste, agricultural by-products, wastewater) to biogas – a mixture of CO2 and methane – which can be used as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels. One million UK homes are now being supplied with ‘green gas’ energy produced via anaerobic digestion from biodegradable farm and food waste. However, the limiting step in obtaining high biogas output is a digestibility of the feedstock, particularly tough plant-based materials.

Founder and technical director of Advanced Microwave Technologies (AMT), Dr Yuriy Zadyraka, developed a unique method of heating liquids volumetrically using his now patented treatment chamber. The technology has been used in pasteurisation of drinks (juices) and liquid food (sauces, soups) and proved to extend a product’s shelf life without compromising its taste. As AMT has continued to grow, they have started to apply their technology in new applications in the food & drinks and industrial biotechnology sectors. In 2016, AMT was awarded a SMART grant by Scottish Enterprise to carry out validation tests of AD feedstocks to demonstrate the effect of microwave pre-treatment on biogas production.

The BDC was contracted by AMT and H2Energy to deliver microwave pre-treatment studies of four potential AD feedstocks and compare the results to thermal hydrolysis pre-treatment. The company benefited from using open-access BDC facilities which enabled them to test AMT technology with their own kit, compare the results to existing technology and perform experiments alongside experienced biologists and chemists. The project monitored the anaerobic digestion process by measuring biomethane potential and other AD parameters. The AMT technology was shown to be an effective way of pre-treating feedstocks for AD by increasing biogas output and speeding the digestion process which consequently will benefit AD plant operator by generating more revenue from existing assets.

Danny Graham, Senior Process Engineer at the AMT concluded: We have been extremely happy with the service provided by BDC. The detail given in the test reports was excellent and has been extremely helpful going forward commercially. The highly experienced staff at BDC have helped us to understand the results and advised next steps and how to proceed.

1 million homes powered by biogas

Biogas is an alternative to fossil fuels

Benefiting AD plant operators by generating more revenue from existing assets

Note to editor:

This project has received funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020

The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding (YNYER) LEP awarded a grant of £1M to the BDC as part of the Local Growth Fund (LGF) support which funded the equipment used to carry out this project. For more information visit: https://www.businessinspiredgrowth.com/funding/local-growth-fund/