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Reference Number BB/M025691/1
Title Bio-methane production from urban organic matter
Status Completed
Energy Categories RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES(Bio-Energy, Production of other biomass-derived fuels (incl. Production from wastes)) 100%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields BIOLOGICAL AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES (Biological Sciences) 100%
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Not Cross-cutting 100%
Principal Investigator Professor C (Charles ) Banks
No email address given
Faculty of Engineering and the Environment
University of Southampton
Award Type Research Grant
Funding Source BBSRC
Start Date 04 April 2015
End Date 31 August 2018
Duration 41 months
Total Grant Value £315,954
Industrial Sectors Healthcare
Region South East
Programme Bioenergy Sustaining the Future (BESTF)
Investigators Principal Investigator Professor C (Charles ) Banks , Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton (99.998%)
  Other Investigator Dr S (Sonia ) Heaven , Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton (0.001%)
Professor T Leighton , Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton (0.001%)
Web Site
Objectives The development of effective cleaning systems for membranes will open up a very wide market for their use in both treatment and biorefinery applications, where there is a requirement to maintain cells in active culture whilst selectively removing product streams. A major advantage of in situ acoustic cleaning in this respect is that it would facilitate the maintenance of stable reactor conditions, including opportunities for aseptic operation in non-wastewater applications. The development of membrane technologies thus offers major opportunities in technology transfer to other process industries, as well as direct application in a very large potential market in the treatment of effluents from a variety of industries and from municipal sources. The use of anaerobic technology in place of aerobic systems in wastewater treatment applications presents a considerable opportunity for energy savings, as well as the potential to generate a valuable biofuel as a by-product. Typically, to treat one tonne of domestic wastewater using a conventional process requires at least 3.6 MJ of energy input: the anaerobic system can yield 6.3 MJ, giving possible net energy gain of around 10 MJ per tonne. Moving from an energy-negative to an energy-neutral or energy-positive technology for wastewater treatment could also contribute significantly to reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Previous studies have suggested that an average decrease of around 80% in GHG emissions could be expected in converting a typical wastewater treatment plant to anaerobic treatment. Because of the size of the industry, which treats around 27000 million m3 of municipal wastewater per year, this would be equivalent to avoided GHG emissions of around 50 million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year in Europe alone. These savings could make a useful contribution to the targets stated in the Kyoto protocol and Council decisions (280/2004//EC and 2005/166/EC), according to which GHG gas emissions in 2012 must be reduced by 8% compared to 1990 standards. In further communique on Limiting global climate change to 2 degreesC - The way ahead for 2020 and beyond (COM/2007/0002 Final) the EU makes a firm commitment to achieve at least a 20% GHG emissions reduction by 2020. The energy production from the anaerobic treatment process will also make a contribution to meeting renewable energy targets both for power generation and for liquid and gaseous biofuels. It would be challenging to change the existing UK and EU wastewater infrastructure overnight: but the development of small-footprint, high efficiency anaerobic MBRs that could be pre-fabricated in the case of smaller installations would facilitate this, and help to address major issues of replacement of ageing infrastructure in the UK, as well as creating business opportunities and new jobs in the engineering and construction sectors through expansion of treatment systems across the world. The global marketfor MBR technology is alread ypr ed icted to reach US$888 million by 2017, and contributions to resolving the key issues of membrane fouling and in situ cleaning are likely to accelerate uptake of these technologies. Anaerobic digestion is recognised by BBSRC as an enabling biotechnology, with the output available for heat and power generation, for blending into gas distribution systems, and for compression to power alternative-fuel vehicles. The development of anaerobic membrane bioreactors for wastewater treatment also represents a halfway house to technologies for the extraction of other intermediate fermentation products as building blocks to hydrocarbon-based bulk chemicals. To use wastewater as a resource in this way would be have major impact in demonstrating the potential for provision of raw materials for a future bio-based
Abstract The research will develop new methods of biomass immobilisation and membrane cleaning that allow higher flux rates to be maintained over longer durations. Purpose-designed support matrices that can be colonised by the microbial community will allow separation of biofilm from the membrane surface via a mild abrasive action. Examples include activated carbons of different pore and granule sizes, plastic media of different buoyancies and densities, and reticulated polyurethane foam with extremely high specific surface areas. Mobilisation of particles allows the use of novel low-intensity ultrasound technology developed at Southampton. This has found widespread application as an effective cleaning system for a variety of surface and fouling types, and will be adapted to the present use. The system is potentially low energy in relation to performance, and could be configured to provide either continuous or intermittent cleaning as needed. For external cartridge systems, ultrasound offers large potential advantages. Cleaning is currently based on the application of back pressures to clear the membrane pores: this is less effective with surface biofilms, however, due to the formation of preferential flow pathways once an area is cleared. The interaction of ultrasound with the microbial community may also benefit the process in several ways: by causing biomass dispersion and rapid colonisation of support particles; by promoting surface interactions that enhance mass transfer; and by directly affecting cell viability, to give better control over the system growth rate and metabolic activity. Growth rates are also linked to the production of extracellular polymeric substances, a key factor in membrane biofouling. A further potential impact of low-power ultrasound may be the release of gaseous products from the bulk solution, thus improving recovery: a particularly important aspect when operating at low temperatures due to the increased solubility of gases.
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 08/04/16