It is generally accepted as a fact in the biogas technology that protein-rich biomass substrates should be avoided due to inevitable process inhibition. Substrate compositions with a low C/N ratio are considered difficult to handle and may lead to process failure, though protein-rich industrial waste products have outstanding biogas generation potential. This common belief has been challenged by using protein-rich substrates, i.e. casein and precipitated pig blood protein in laboratory scale continuously stirred mesophilic fed-batch biogas fermenters. Both substrates proved suitable for sustained biogas production (0.447 L CH4/g protein oDM, i.e. organic total solids) in high yield without any additives, following a period of adaptation of the microbial community. The apparent key limiting factors in the anaerobic degradation of these proteinaceous materials were the accumulation of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Changes in time in the composition of the microbiological community were determined by next-generation sequencing-based metagenomic analyses. Characteristic rearrangements of the biogas-producing community upon protein feeding and specific differences due to the individual protein substrates were recognized. The results clearly demonstrate that sustained biogas production is readily achievable, provided the system is well-characterized, understood and controlled. Biogas yields (0.45 L CH4/g oDM) significantly exceeding those of the commonly used agricultural substrates (0.25-0.28 L CH4/g oDM) were routinely obtained. The results amply reveal that these high-energy-content waste products can be converted to biogas, a renewable energy carrier with flexible uses that can replace fossil natural gas in its applications. Process control, with appropriate acclimation of the microbial community to the unusual substrate, is necessary. Metagenomic analysis of the microbial community by next-generation sequencing allows a precise determination of the alterations in the community composition in the course of the process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)