Green grass: developing grass for sustainable gaseous biofuel

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Nizami, Abdul-Sattar
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University College Cork
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Grass is ubiquitous in Ireland and temperate northern Europe. It is a low input perennial crop; farmers are well versed in its production and storage (ensiling). Anaerobic digestion is a well understood technology. Grass is a lignocellulosic feedstock which is fibrous; it can readily cause difficulties with moving parts (wrapping around mixers); it also has a tendency to float. This thesis has an ambition of establishing the ideal digester configuration for production of biogas from grass. After extensive analysis of the literature, two different digester systems were designed, fabricated, commissioned and operated. The first system was a two stage wet continuous system commonly referred to as a Continuously Stirred Tank Reactor (CSTR). The second was a two stage, two phase system employing Sequentially Fed Leach Beds complete with an Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (SLBR-UASB). These were operated on the same grass silage cut from the same field at the same time. Small biomethane potential (BMP) assays were also evaluated for the same grass silage. The results indicated that the CSTR system produced 451 L CH4 kg-1 VS added at a retention time of 50 days while effecting a 90% destruction in volatile dry solids. The SLBR-UASB produced 341 L CH4 kg-1 VS added effecting a 75% reduction in volatile solids at a retention time of 30 days. The BMP assays generated results in the range 350 to 493 L CH4 kg-1 VS added. This thesis concludes that a disparity exists in the BMP tests used in the industry. The CSTR when designed specifically for grass silage is shown to be extremely effective in methane production. The SLBR-UASB has significant potential to allow for lower retention times with good levels of methane production. This technology has more potential for research in enzymatic hydrolysis and for use of digestate in added value products.
Green grass , Developing grass , Sustainable gaseous biofuel
Nizami, A.-S. 2011. Green grass: developing grass for sustainable gaseous biofuel. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.