3 years ago

The effect of temperature and retention time on methane production and microbial community composition in staged anaerobic digesters fed with food waste

Mirzaman Zamanzadeh, Svein Jarle Horn, John Christian Gaby



Food waste is a large bio-resource that may be converted to biogas that can be used for heat and power production, or as transport fuel. We studied the anaerobic digestion of food waste in a staged digestion system consisting of separate acidogenic and methanogenic reactor vessels. Two anaerobic digestion parameters were investigated. First, we tested the effect of 55 vs. 65 °C acidogenic reactor temperature, and second, we examined the effect of reducing the hydraulic retention time (HRT) from 17 to 10 days in the methanogenic reactor. Process parameters including biogas production were monitored, and the microbial community composition was characterized by 16S amplicon sequencing.


Neither organic matter removal nor methane production were significantly different for the 55 and 65 °C systems, despite the higher acetate and butyrate concentrations observed in the 65 °C acidogenic reactor. Ammonium levels in the methanogenic reactors were about 950 mg/L NH4 + when HRT was 17 days but were reduced to 550 mg/L NH4 + at 10 days HRT. Methane production increased from ~ 3600 mL/day to ~ 7800 when the HRT was decreased. Each reactor had unique environmental parameters and a correspondingly unique microbial community. In fact, the distinct values in each reactor for just two parameters, pH and ammonium concentration, recapitulate the separation seen in microbial community composition. The thermophilic and mesophilic digesters were particularly distinct from one another. The 55 °C acidogenic reactor was mainly dominated by Thermoanaerobacterium and Ruminococcus, whereas the 65 °C acidogenic reactor was initially dominated by Thermoanaerobacterium but later was overtaken by Coprothermobacter. The acidogenic reactors were lower in diversity (34–101 observed OTU0.97, 1.3–2.5 Shannon) compared to the methanogenic reactors (472–513 observed OTU0.97, 5.1–5.6 Shannon). The microbial communities in the acidogenic reactors were > 90% Firmicutes, and the Euryarchaeota were higher in relative abundance in the methanogenic reactors.


The digestion systems had similar biogas production and COD removal rates, and hence differences in temperature, NH4 + concentration, and pH in the reactors resulted in distinct but similarly functioning microbial communities over this range of operating parameters. Consequently, one could reduce operational costs by lowering both the hydrolysis temperature from 65 to 55 °C and the HRT from 17 to 10 days.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13068-017-0989-4

DOI: 10.1186/s13068-017-0989-4

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