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University of South Wales – Real-time Multi-parameter Monitoring for Anaerobic Digestion.

The University of South Wales is home to the Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC), a ground-breaking research centre bringing together leaders from biology, engineering, chemistry, and physics in a single academic team combining their resources and skills in order to address major energy and environmental R&D challenges. Team members have experience in operating lab scale, pilot scale and full-scale biological process plants, and have participated in a number of large national and international collaborative projects, both Research Council and EU funded. SERC has laboratory facilities at Glyntaff and Baglan and works with partners and institutions from across the world. SERC focuses on a number of Research Themes such as: Anaerobic Digestion, Analytical Technology, Bioelectrochemical Systems, Biohydrogen and Biomethane Production, Hydrogen Energy, Hydrogen Vehicles and Refuelling, Biopolymer Production, Modelling and Control, Nano Materials and Wastewater Treatment.

The Wales Centre of Excellent for Anaerobic Digestion (The AD Centre) is part of SERC and was established in 2008 with the aim of providing a mechanism through which academic knowledge and R&D could benefit the development of the emerging AD industry. The AD Centre delivers industry led research projects focussed on the development of biological processes that can be integrated with industrial operations such as renewable energy generation, waste and wastewater treatment, recovery processes or manufacturing processes to deliver a range of benefits such as material and economic efficiencies and reduction of environmental impacts.

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The video introduces the development of a real-time monitoring tool using FT-NIR for supporting management decisions related to feedstock management and the digestion process.

The technique chosen to perform real-time multi-parameter monitoring is FT-NIR spectroscopy. Modelling efforts have been delivered by the team in order to convert the spectra into multi-parameter models that can be useful in optimising anaerobic digestion plants. The tool is based on hardware that is commercially available, is designed to work in tough environments and can link into SCADA systems for optimisation and control in industrial environments. 

The real-time monitoring tool has been calibrated for total and volatile solids measurements allowing organic loads and quality of digestates to be quantified in real-time. The tool has also been calibrated for total volatile fatty acids and has shown the ability to speciate for individual volatile fatty acids. The tool is able to measure a wide range of volatile fatty acid concentrations enabling it to be deployed for anaerobic digestion control as well as for in emerging technologies such as biorefining plants for the production and use of volatile fatty acids. In the next couple of months robustness is being further investigated by reducing the impacts from potential interferences and modelling is being further optimised. 

Next steps will be to evaluate the tool’s long term performance when monitoring takes place at full scale plants.

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