Anaerobic waste digestion in Germany – Status and recent developments


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Abstract

Anaerobic treatment processes are especially suited for the utilization of wet organic wastes from agriculture and industry as well as for the organic part of source-separated household wastes. The anaerobic degradation is a very cost-effective method for treating biogenic wastes because the formed biogas can be used for heat and electricity production and the digester residues can be recycled to agriculture as a secondary fertilizer. The anaerobic technology will be used today also for the common treatment of wastes together with renewable energy crops in order to reduce the CO2-emissions according the Kyoto protocol. Various process types are applied in Germany which differ in material, reaction conditions and in the form of the used reactor systems. The widespread introduction of anaerobic digestion in Germany has shown that biogenic organic wastes are a valuable source for energy and nutrients. Anaerobic waste treatment is done today in approx. 850 biogas plants on small farm scale as well as on large industrial scale with the best beneficial and economic outcome. Due to some new environmental protection acts which promote the recycling of wastes and their utilization for renewable energy formation it can be expected that several hundreds new biogas plants will be built per year in Germany. For using the synergetic effects of a combined fermentation of wastes and energy crops new process types must be developed in order to optimize the substrate combinations and the process conditions for maximum biodegradation.

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