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close this bookBiogas Plants in Animal Husbandry (GTZ, 1989)
close this folder5. Biogas technique
View the document(introduction...)
View the document5.1 Fundamental principles, parameters, terms
View the document5.2 Design principles of simple biogas plants
View the document5.3 Biogas plants of simple design
View the document5.4 Design and construction of plant components
View the document5.5 Biogas utilization
View the document5.6 Measuring methods and devices for biogas plants

5.2 Design principles of simple biogas plants

The technical conception of biogas plants is determined by the aim of achieving optimal parameters for the biological process (cf. chapter 5.1).

That being so, the following operating requirements/limitations must be given due consideration:

- type and composition of organic material, which determines the choice of process

- given demand for biogas and fertilizer, in addition to the available substrate quantities, which determines the size of the biogas plant

- economy of labor input for building and operating the plants, including consideration of the necessary mechanical equipment.


Fig. 5.3: The batch-feed principle (1) vs the continuous feed principle (2) (Source: OEKOTOP)


Fig. 5.4: The fermentation channel (1) vs the complete-mixed digester (2) (Source: OEKOTOP)


Fig. 5.5: Slurry flow for various configuration of feed, discharge and stirring. 1 Low inlet, outlet at top (beside the gasholder); 2 High inlet, low outlet (normal); 3 Low inlet, low outlet (with partition wall); 4 Vertical agitator; 5 Fixed-dome plant; F: Quality factor for thorough mixing and favorable throughflow conditions, normal situation = 100% (Source: OEKOTOP)

The range of simple biogas plants includes the following basic types:

Batch-type plants are thus referred to because they are charged with successive batches of organic material and a certain amount of seeding slurry to serve as starter. The digestion process is interrupted as soon as the rate of biogas production has slowed down to the point that continued digestion would be uneconomical. Then, the plant is cleaned out and refilled. To achieve a more or less uniform rate of biogas production, several digesters must be operated in parallel, i.e. filled at staggered intervals. Differentiation is made between semi-dry plants (operating on a total-solids content of more than 15%) and liquid plants.

Batch plants are suitable for digesting strawy, fibrous material with a high solids content, usually in areas with low annual precipitation, and for use as simple demonstration plants.

Continuous-feed plants are those in which there is a continuous throughflow of biomass, resulting in a near-constant volume of slurry in the digester. In practice, such plants are fed once or twice each day. There are three main sub-versions:
- complete-mixed digesters
- fermentation channels and
- combinations of the two.

The advantage of continuous-feed plants is that the bacteria receive a regular supply of substrate and are therefore able to generate a more constant supply of biogas. The problem is that buoyant constituents tend to form a stiff layer of scum that impedes biogas production and may even plug up the plant. That drawback can be countered by installing suitable agitators and lengthening the retention time.

The digester inlet, outlet and, to the extent applicable, the agitator must be designed to work together in ensuring the proper retention time, i.e. to avoid short-circuit flow, because the gas production rate would otherwise stay well below the optimum level.

Continuous-feed biogas plants are sized on the basis of the desired retention time for the organic material, in combination with the digester load, which in turn is a function of the prevailing temperature and type of substrate (cf. chapter 4.3).