Boost to brewing biogas: OARDC receives $6.5 million grant to further develop new system

OARDC has received a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy to test and expand OARDC-developed technology that can produce biogas from a variety of solid organic wastes and bioenergy crops.

Awarded through the Biomass Research Development Initiative (BRDI), the three-year grant will also allow researchers to develop technology for converting biogas to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, with the aim of further diversifying the country's currently available suite of renewable transportation fuels.

University partners in the grant include Mississippi State University and the University of Georgia.The project's main industry partner is quasar energy group, a Cleveland-based company that operates several anaerobic digesters -- systems that produce biogas from organic waste -- in Ohio and Massachusetts, including one on OARDC's Wooster campus. Other industry partners include AgSTAR, Aloterra Energy, American Electric Power, CNH, and Marathon.

Biogas is produced from the solid nutrients present in the biodigestion process. As more solids go in, more biogas comes out.

The project's main goal is to enhance the integrated anaerobic digestion system (iADs), a patent-pending technology developed by OARDC and operated by quasar. The system combines quasar's commercial liquid biodigester with a novel solid-state or "dry" biodigester. This combination allows the overall system to process types and amounts of dry biomass -- such as yard waste, crop residue, and lignocellulosic food waste -- that the liquid biodigester can't handle alone.

Solid improvement

"The iADs can treat and recover energy from organic materials with up to 85 percent solids content," said OARDC biosystems engineer Yebo Li, who invented the integrated system and is the grant's principal investigator.

"By comparison, liquid biodigesters currently used in the United States can only process up to 14 percent solids content."

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-- Mauricio Espinoza, Communications & Technology