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The Practical Handbook of Compost Engineering

Chapter 1: Introduction
Practical definition of composting is biological decomposition and stabilization of
organic substrates, under conditions that allow development of thermophilic
temperatures as a result of biologically produced heat, to produce a final product
that is stable, free of pathogens and plant seeds, and can beneficially applied to

Compost is an organic soil conditioner that has been stabilized to a humus-like

product, that is free of viable pathogens and plant seeds, that does not attract
insects or vectors, that can be handled and stored without nuisance, and that is
beneficial to the growth of plants.

Composting substrates could be (common applied): municipal biosolid, industrial

sludge, manures, yard wastes, septage, food and agricultural wastes, municipal
solid wastes, special waste (hazardous material, pilot plant)

Problems of substrate:
• Wet substrates:
a. contains 70-80% water
b. results in reducing compost temperature, void for free air space
(anaerobic condition may happen)
c. with wet substrates, composter will concern with structural conditioning
(easily compacting), energy conditioning to keep thermodynamic
d. however, they usually contains much nutritions
• Dry substrates:
a. Usually lack of nutritions
b. Need more water added to keep the moisture level

Quality of compost:
Metal limits (by USA EPA)
Element Concentration (mg/kg dry wt)
Arsenic 41
Cadmium 39
Chromium 1200
Copper 1500
Lead 300
Mercury 17
Molybdenum 18
Nickel 420
Selenium 36
Zinc 2800

C/N ratio between 15-10, temperature constant, earthy odor, easily broken
(berbentuk remah2)
Chapter 2: Composting System
Generalized process diagram for composting:
Amandment Recycle

Substrates 1st stage 2nd stage

Pre- Post- Compost
high-rate curing
processing processing Product
phase phase

New Bulking

Recycled Bulking Agent

1. 1st stage: high oxygen uptake rate, thermophilic temperature, high BVS
reduction, high odor potential  windrow, aerated static pile, reactor
2. 2nd stage: curing phase, lower temperature process, reduced oxygen
uptake rate, lower odor production  aerated/non-aerated static pile,
windrow, reactor
Curing phase provided time to:
a. Degradation of more refractory elements
b. Reestablishing lower temperature microbial populations, which may be
beneficial in maturing the compost, metabolizing phytotoxic
compounds, and suppressing plant disease
3. Pre and post-processing: preparing feed to be composted well and make
compost product to have good quality
Pre-processing: screening feed, shredding material, conditioning C/N ratio,
moisture, nutrients, etc
Post-processing: screening compost product

Feed conditioning can be done by:

a. Recycling of compost product and blending feed components have been
used in practice
b. Adding organic or inorganic amendments
c. Adding bulking agent such as wood chips, subsequent screening of
compost product
d. Combination of above

A material added to other substrates to condition the feed mixtures. It can be:
a. Structural or drying amendments  to reduce bulk weight and increase air
voids allowing for proper aeration
b. Energy or fuel amendments  to increase the quantity of biodegradable
organics in mixture and thereby increase energy content of the mixture
Bulking agents: a material of sufficient size to provide structural support and
maintain air spaces within the composting matrix  wood chips, peanut shells,

Composting process:
a. Non reactor: agitated or non-agitated
• Windrow process  nonreactor, agitated solid bed system, turn
mechanically in periodic, oxygen is supplied primarily by natural
ventilation. Aeration by turning is used to restructure the windrow so
considerable mixing can be expected along the height and width of the
Forced aerated windrow: oxygen is supplied by forced or induced aeration
using blower
• Static-process  nonreactor, forced or induced aeration, no agitation or
turning during composting,

b. Reactor (in-vessel)
• Vertical reactor  defined according to bed conditions in reactor, feed fed
in continous or intermittent, compost is not agitated but mixed by the
flow, example: circular or rectangular reactor geometries with co-current
or countercurrent aeration (depth: 6-9 m), low cost per unit working
• Horizontal reactor  those that employ rotating or rotary drum reactor,
bin using agitation, or bin with static solid bed.
Rotating/rotary drum (tumbling reactor): reactor is divided into several
cells. Feed is fed in the first cell, so does the next feed (intermittent) that
the compost is moved partly until it reaches the last cell and withdrawn as
product. Other case is tumbling reactor with feed and withdrawn mixed
well with high agitation (complex operation, rarely operated)
Agitated bins: horizontal bins with agitator (like germination tank),
constructed in rectangular or circular geometrics (look at the pic 2.4E)
Static solid bed: tunnel shaped with push ram, static pile with conveyor
(look a the pic 2.4G)

Kinds of process applied nowadays:

A. Nonreactor, agitated solid bed reactor
• Indore  sampah padatan dibuat berlapis2 dengan menyisipkan kotoran
sapid an tambahan2 lainnya di antara lapisan2 tersebut. Kompos diaduk2
secara berkala, biasanya untuk composting skala kecil
• VAM (van Maanen)  like indore process, but applied for composting in
large quantities
• Modern windrow  compost is arranged in long parallel rows with
triangular or trapezoidal shape. Compost is turned periodically with
machine and aerated through natural ventilation. It’s the most popular
composting system because it’s flexible for many kinds of substrate and
low capital investment.

Windrow composting:
o Low-level techno: compost is turned periodically, water is added while
o High-level techno: compost is composted in aerated static pile during
1st stage process, then it’s cured by turning it mechanically  aneh :|

B. Nonreactor, static bed system

• Aerated static pile
• Briquetting
• Pelleting process
• Daneco
C. Reactor system  look at the book please!

Chapter 3: Thermodynamic Fundamentals

Estimating heat of reaction:

• Modeled by Fair et. al:

Q = Btu/lbs, a = coefficient equals to 131 for raw and digested primary
sludge, 107 for raw waste activated sludge, b = coefficient equals to 10
(raw and digested primary sludge), 5 for waste activated sludge, Pv = %
volatile solid, Pc = % inorganic conditioning chemical in sludge
• Formula by Spoehr and Milner:

With R = degree of reduction

Q in cal/g ash-free ds
• Formula by Dulong-Petite
Q = 145.4 C + 620 (H-O/8) + 41 S
Q in btu/lb ash-free dsS
• Formula by Zanoni and Mueller:
Q = 3.81 COD + 28.6  Q in cal/g ds

Heat in composting is transferred through 3 ways: conduction, convection, and

radiation. Convection occurs as a result of fluid motion (air) within a bed of
compost, evaporation of water, condensation in another part of the compost bed.

Chapter 4: Biological Fundamentals

Microorganisms involved in composting are fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes,
rickettsie, etc. Besides composting microorganisms, there are also pathogenic
microorganisms involved in the process. Microbial growth of microorganisms is
modeled by Monod:
dS k SX
=− m
dt Ks + S
Where dS/dt = rate of substrate consumption, S = substrate concentration, X =
concentration of microbes, km = maximum rate of substrate utilization, Ks =
substrate concentration when growth rate reaches half of maximum rate. This
model results in first-order reaction when Ks>>S and ends with zero-order
reaction when Ks<<S.

From the substrate consumption rate formula, rate of microbial growth can be
modeled as below.
= Ym − dS (
− ke X )
Combining with the formula before, rate of microbial growth can be formulated
as below.
dt = Ym k m S − k
X Ks + S
Ymkm is called maximum net specific growth rate, μm, achieved at high
substrate concentration (S>>Ks) and low endogenous respiration (ke = 0). With
this terms, equation above becomes
µ= − ke
Ks + S
Value of ke can be counted by McKinney’s formula for temperature range 4 to
k e ( hour ) = (0.02 )e 0.069 (T −20 )

Multiple substrate consumption rate formula can be formulated as below.

dS  S1   S 2   Sn 
= −k m X   ..... 
 K s1 + S1   K s 2 + S 2   K sn + S n 

Chapter 5: Kinetics of Heat Inactivation

Microorganism can be inactivated by heat because heat can make enzymes
working in microbial cell coagulated so the cell can die. This sterilization needs
several time to achieve sterilization criteria: 90% of the microorganisms died.
Sludge with higher moisture can be inactivated faster in lower temperature than
one with lower moisture.  higher temperature, shorter time = lower
temperature, longer time.

Every kind of microorganisms has its own temperature-time relationship in heat

inactivation kinetics. However, inactivation of many microorganisms can be
considered as first-order kinetics rate.
dn nt
= −k d n  ln = −k d t
dt no
Kd is function of temperature so that the kinetics of heat inactivation can be
written as below.
nt  − Ed 
ln = −C exp  t
no  RT 

Chapter 6: Feed Conditioning-Physical and Chemical

Moisture and free-air space is important for composting. Moisture is required to
keep the microbial growth because microorganisms need water to live. However,
too much water is not good for composting because water will reduce the free-air
space so that oxygen can’t penetrate easily to compost. Enough free-air space is
needed for enough aeration.

Compost matrix consists of gas, water, and solid. The content of these elements
can be measured by using these equations.
1 V (1 − Vs )
= s +
Gs Gv Gf
Where volatile fraction of substrates solid, Gs = specific gravity of the substrate
solid, Gv = specific gravity of volatile fraction, Gf = specific gravity of fixed
fraction in solid. Total volume of compost mixture can be measured as the total
volume of gas, solid, and liquid. To reach the maximum bulk weight, gas volume
is assumed zero so the total volume of compost mixture is:
Ws W Ws W (1 − S s )
Vt = + w = + s
Gs δ w δ w Gsδ w S sδ w
Vt = (Ws / δ w )[1 / G s + (1 − S s ) / S s ]
Where Ws = weight of dry solids, Ww = weight of water, δw = unit weight of
water, and Ss = fractional solid content of the substrate.

Moisture content in compost can be removed by air drying. Time required for air
drying is formulated as below.
d si δ si
ta = (1 − S si / S sf )
( E − P )δ w
Where ta = time required for air drying, dsi = initial depth of wet substrate (cm),
δsi = initial bulk weight of substrate (g/cm3), E = average evaporation rate over
the drying period (cm/day), P = average precipitation rate over the drying period
(cm/day), Ssi = initial solid content of wet substrates, Ssf = final solid content of
dried substrates. Area required for drying is counted as below.
X s (1 − S si / S sf )
( E − P )δ w (10 5 )
With Xs = substrate weight, kg/day

Besides air drying, moisture content can be removed by heat drying. Substrate
conditioning also can be done with chemical conditioning. Chemical conditioning:
• Nutrients
C/N ratio contained in compost substrate shouldn’t be higher than 15-30. If
C/N ratio is higher than 30, rate of substrate consumption will take long time.
Besides that, higher C/N ratio means nitrogen content in substrate is low so
that microbial growth can be limited because nitrogen is the limited nutrient
for microbial growth. However, if C/N ratio is lower than 15, it means that
substrate contains lots of nitrogen. If the composting takes place in high
temperature and high pressure, nitrogen will volatilize as ammonia. Ammonia
releasing will produce bad odor and it’s a big problem in composting.

To be remembered, it is not necessary that the mixed substrate have C/N

ratio within range of 15 to 30. It is only required that C/N ratio < 15-30 to
remove nitrogen from being rate limiting. C/N ratio can be measured by
measuring N using Kjeldahl method and ash content so that C content can be
(100 − %ash)
%C =

• pH
Substrate pH is not necessary to be kept at neutral condition because in
composting process, ammonia (base) and CO2 (acid) is produced. Because of
that, actually compost pH will be kept in neutral condition and doesn’t need
to be conditioned at first.

Chapter 7: Aeration Requirements

Aeration is needed to fulfill oxygen requirement. It depends on substrate
consumed during composting. For example, for municipal sludge (C 10H19O3N)
substrate, oxygen demand based on stoichiometric:
C10H19O3N + 12.5 O2  10 CO2 + 8 H2O + NH3  1.99 g O2/g substrate BVS

Cellulosic material:
C6H10O5 + 6O2  6CO2 + 5H2O  1.185 g O2/g BVS