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Identification of potential methanogen populations leads to possible correlation with anaerobic digester performance
Laboratory and process instrumentation manufacturer Fluid Imaging Technologies Inc. announced a new patent pending application for its imaging particle analysis system, FlowCAM. A wastewater treatment plant in Augusta, Ga., used the instrument to monitor the condition and presence of methanogens in their anaerobic digestion process to find a potential correlation with methane production.
At the plant, anaerobic methanogen microorganisms break down sewage sludge and wastewater solids to produce methane, which is used to produce electricity and heat. The effectiveness of this anaerobic digestion process is determined by the methanogen population. Improving the efficiency of the process could lead to increased production and cost reductions.
“Having an easy way to monitor our methanogen populations throughout the process provides us a cost-effective way to quickly see the effect of changes or modifications,” said Percy Nolan, assistant project manager at the Augusta wastewater treatment plant. “Ultimately, this should help us create a more streamlined and predictable process control strategy.”
The initial study shows that there may be a strong a correlation between the bacilli-shaped microorganisms imaged by the FlowCAM and methane production. Future studies are planned to confirm the biology of the captured images, and it is the basic morphology and the frequency of testing available through FlowCAM image analysis that enables effective population dynamic studies to be possible.
Methane production is becoming more prevalent in a variety of utility applications, so understanding the conditions and presence of this methanogen biology is increasingly relevant. If the FlowCAM can be utilized as a tool for identification, the instrument could play a major role in helping to define further design and implementation.