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System Mix, PandM Pumps’ mixing system design and supply company, has explained why effective mixing is vital to maximising the anaerobic digestion process.

With increasing volumes of UK waste now being processed to create biogas from the anaerobic digestion process it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that plant availability and working capacities are maintained.

While it is acknowledged that the biogas industry has benefitted from the technological expertise gained from both the digestion of feed crops such as maize and to some extent from the UK wastewater industry, problems are occurring with other types of waste material.

For example, the use of household waste material within the anaerobic digestion industry highlights the problems associated with inconsistent waste materials, even when they have been preconditioned and blended before entering the digestion process.

While the sludge associated with the wastewater industry is usually well screened pre-digestion, and energy crops such as maize are uniform before and during the digestion process, it has been proven that heavier, fibrous materials in ‘waste-to-energy’ digestion processes create new problems.

In many applications where submersible and paddle-type mixers have shown acceptable results where non-accumulating solids are the norm, there are other examples that indicate a direct relationship between poor mixing and gas production.

In addition to the more commonly accepted problems associated with poor mixing (reduced volatile solids reduction caused by less-than-ideal anaerobic conditions) other factors should also be considered.

These problems directly affect the digester performance in that they either reduce working capacity by settlement or strangle gas release by blanketing the surface of the digester.

These problems, combined with solids that are prone to reweave or accumulate in clumps, cause specific problems with unsuitable mechanical plant inside the digester.

Failure to suitably condition simultaneously with mixing also creates problems with concentrated material leaving the digester either via a heat exchanger recirculation system, or onward processing such as dewatering prior to composting.

Premature wear of heat exchanger recirculation pumps caused by grit deposition is also common where poor mixing at low level is prevalent.

Furthermore, transfer pumps can be prone to clogging and premature wear and unless suitable mixing systems are employed inside a post-digestion storage tank it is unlikely that other problems could be encountered with settlement, dewatering or onward transfer to land.

While numerous types of mixing systems have been developed and implemented for use in anaerobic digestion process systems, many have been subsequently discarded.

System Mix offers the Vaughn Rotamix system and has supplied digester mixing systems for municipal applications as well as in the growth area of the bio-waste industry.

In a recent example, Rotamix tank-mixing systems were retrofitted as replacements for submersible and paddle mixers on two digesters at a major waste-to-energy plant in Bedfordshire during 2010.

During the preparation for the retrofit, a very significant amount of settled solids was removed from the digester tanks, which accounted for more than 20 per cent of the available working volume after only four years of operation.

A single externally-mounted Vaughan chopper pump for each digester and an array of nozzles and pipework were installed quickly and easily.

Since being commissioned, gas production has increased significantly and maintained its high level.

Post-digested sludge condition has shown that the benefits of simultaneous conditioning and mixing create a digestate that is more consistent and more acceptable for use in agriculture.

The Rotamix system offers a series of benefits, according to System Mix.

These include: retained digester volume and minimal settlement, with more than 90 per cent being retained during its working life; maximised solids reduction; continuous recirculation during mixing ensures full distribution and breakdown of solids, both mechanically and biologically; retained gas production is maintained to levels seen at system start without drop-off; minimal cleanout costs as the digester can be easily cleaned at minimal cost.

It also benefits from low installation costs, the company said, because all rotating equipment is externally mounted and internal equipment is easily installed.

P and M Pumps

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