Development of a rapid microbial monitoring tool to support
anaerobic digestion process optimisation

In an innovative collaborative project for the water industry, WRc have addressed an important requirement for operators of anaerobic digesters to have a quick and easy-to-use biological test to assess the digestibility of new feedstock and to monitor digester activity.

Existing chemical screening tests provide surrogate data on anaerobic digestion processes, but these provide only partial answers regarding digester health. Laboratory based biological anaerobic digestion monitoring techniques are available but test results can take weeks, a timescale that is too long to be useful for operational control. WRc worked with suppliers to adapt market-ready technology currently in use in other sectors to provide a rapid test for anaerobic digestion process monitoring and optimisation.

Laboratory trials were carried out by WRc on two monitoring approaches to establish their potential for field use. Following a series of laboratory based validation trials the equipment was tested on field samples and correlated with traditional gas monitoring techniques and chemical measurements. Using the new test data alongside existing operational data WRc developed a simple data tracker to correlate on-site measurements to other on-site performance data.

WRc is now taking this project to a new level and are looking for partners operating anaerobic digesters in the waste, water and agriculture sectors to undertaken a full-scale technology field validation to produce data to calibrate an expert decision support tool.

Jane Turrell Principal consultant Tel: +44 (0) 1793 865000