On 14 November the Renewable Energy Association hosted an event to educate the operators of AD projects on how to maintain the optimum biology within their biogas plants. 

There were over 80 delegates, split roughly 1:2:1 from waste food fed projects, agricultural projects, and those taking a mixture of both types of feedstock.  Almost half of them (36) filled out feedback forms, giving the overall event a very healthy 4.2 out of a total of five. There were four lecturers on the course, Tim Elsome & Adrian Rochefort (from FM BioEnergy) and Dr. Melanie Hecht & Dr Harald Lindorfer from Schaumann BioEnergy GmbH.  Together they delivered a delivered total of 136 slides.

The content included:

  • stages in the anaerobic digestion process
  • types of bacteria and archaea, their optimum conditions and reproduction rates
  • the role of enzymes, trace elements and micro-nutrients
  • the impact of temperature and pH
  • dosing / feeding regimes
  • inhibitors of the anaerobic digestion process
  • the biomethane potentials of different feedstocks
  • problem feedstocks
  • how to avoid and mitigate foaming
  • monitoring regimes
  • how to interpret data sheets and spotting early danger signs
  • restoring optimum performance

Normally, the optimum number for a dedicated operator training programme would be no more than 15 people.  However the objective of “Biology Day” was to enable as many operators as possible to benefit, and BIOSURF subsidised the cost of the event. With larger numbers, inevitably there is less time for individual operators’ to share their experiences (often be a very valuable exercise) and instead the format is more like a conference or classroom situation.  Despite this there were lots of questions, and the feedback was extremely positive.

As an example, I asked one delegate, David Birmingham, if he was learning much and he replied.

“Absolutely!  I’ve just pulled our monthly biology data on my plant up on my phone now, and I’m looking back at it, casting my mind back to see the correlations with gas production.  It all makes a lot more sense now, for the exact reasons the guys have just gone through.  It’s such a shame [name removed] isn’t here.  We had some real problems on one of our plants, and the biology in one digester nearly died.  It was a shocker, and might have been avoided if we had all understood a bit more about how these things happen, and the warning signs to look for.”

Other feedback included “Enlivening day”   “Excellent”    “Great balance between basic principles and technical content”    “Interesting and informative. Shows how easy it is to get things wrong, how quick it can go wrong and how getting one thing out of balance can lead to a massive downward spiral of events if not remedied”    “Very informative, whether you are experienced or not, there was plenty of information for all”

There is clearly an appetite for repeating this course, and we took the opportunity to find out what other subject matter could be covered. If you would like to go on our mailing list for future events, contact leah@r-e-a.net subject line “AD training”