1. Improving process understanding with "metabolic activity tests"
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the AD process is the metabolic activity of the microorganisms. Information about this parameter reveals the capacity of the process to handle more feedstock, or how well the bacteria involved will be able to manage the current feedstock load. Monitoring of this parameter is relatively rare in most biogas plants today. This severely limits their ability to efficiently operate the process. The metabolic activity of a digester is determined by batch fermentation tests under very regulated conditions. Traditionally, these types of tests have been expensive, and demanding in terms labour, skill and time. However, the new automatic and smart instruments available today are changing the game.
2. Optimising process operation with continuous fermentation tests
In order to make changes to a process without risking the full-scale operation, you need to test these changes separately. The most efficient way of doing this is by simulating the full-scale process with continuous lab fermentation tests in well-controlled conditions. Again, these tests used to be very labour, skill and time intensive. But with the new smart and automatic systems available for this type of application, it is now possible to perform this kind of analysis with high quality results and minimal effort.
3. Integrating process data with a Smart Data Grid
A key to operating biogas plants efficiently is to base operation decisions on all available parameters, from both necessary off-line analysis and key on-line process monitoring. For this to be possible we need to better integrate, present and interpret all the available key process data. There are now cloud-based applications that allow customisable solutions for various plants. This helps:
Collecting both off-line analysis data and several different on-line sensors signals
Presenting results so they are easy to compile and digest by the user :
Easily sharing data within the plant management team.
Enabling AD plants to connect and exchange data and experiences could also be benificial to improve their performance.
4. Using Smart Tools for better knowledge transfer
It is also key to find better ways facilitate knowledge transfer between experienced and junior operators, as well as process engineers. Besides improving improving understanding of the process, smart tools will also play on their motivation by making them realize the important role they play in making the biogas plant successful.
Here are a few strategies that will help future plant operators and process engineers meet the challenges of running a biogas plant:
Online diagnosis platforms, that use smart instruments for off-line analysis
Lab scale process simulation, that eliminates risk for full-scale operation,
Practical on-site training,
Education and exchanging of experiences between AD plants and operators.
Thanks to the increased availability and affordability of smart tools, biogas plants now have the opportunity to develop strategies that truly improve a plant operation.
Regular metabolic activity tests, continuous fermentation tests, smart data grids and better knowledge transfer among process operators is key for further development of the biogas industry.
By putting more focus on controlling the AD process itself and with the help of smart tools, biogas plants will be capable of harnessing the true potential of AD in a safe and sustainable way. All together, we can build a stronger, more environmentally friendly, and more profitable AD industry.
You've finished the course. Well done!