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Acceptability of an Anaerobic Digestion based Organic Waste Management Systems for Domestic Use

Wijesinghe, N.A. (070551C), Wijesinghe, R.D. (070552F)

Department of Electrical Engineering University of Moratuwa
Abstract- Domestic waste disposal in urban and suburban areas in our country is a problem for which the authorities and the society as a whole failed to provide a sustainable and effective solution. Currently practiced method is indiscriminate dumping of waste in to open dumps. Further our methods of city and country planning, housing and construction has yet not adopted the common sewer concept. Thus the most widely used system for human excreta management is on site treatment facilities such as pit latrines and septic tanks. These disposal methods invariably cause ground water contamination and the negative environmental impacts are becoming more intolerable. This paper examines the suitability of replacing the domestic septic tank with an anaerobic digester to form a domestic organic waste disposal system and the possibility of diversifying and automating the use of end products from the anaerobic digester.



uman dwellings and activities generate a considerable amount of waste. Disposal of these wastes must be a systematically designed and sustainably operated process; otherwise it will cause a substantial negative impact on the environment. Due to the larger population density, increasing consumption rate and the shortening of product life-spans this is more critical in urban and sub-urban areas. With the improving living conditions per capita waste generation per day in Sri Lanka is nearly a 1kg and is expected to exceed 1kg by 2025 [1]. Yet our management strategy on these waste streams is in disarray. The municipal solid waste can be landfilled appropriately in sanitary landfills or utilised in purpose-built waste recovery and treatment systems. Yet at present what Sri Lanka is experiencing is pure dumping. This has caused severe environmental degradation especially in our population centres such as Colombo and adjacent areas with significant piles of garbage polluting wells and underground water supplies from its leachate into the soil and from its run-off due to rains. When public protest arises due to these intolerable environmental impacts, the answer given by most of municipal authorities is to simply switch the dumping site, which is in any sense unacceptable. A proposal to create a sanitary landfill to coup with the waste stream from Colombo municipality in 1997 was objected furiously by many, yet they fail to provide with a suitable alternative. Further the

Local Government Act of Sri Lanka states that the sole responsibility of waste collection, treatment and dumping is of the local authority, which acts as a legal obstacle to a centralized solution for waste management [2]. Studies carried out in the past regarding waste generation in Sri Lanka [3], has shown that more than 80% of the waste generated in residential establishments are of organic nature. Due to the unprocessed nature of our agricultural products, this waste composition will be valid for a foreseeable future. For most organic waste materials from households, biomethanation (anaerobic digestion) is the most efficient energy conversion technique because, direct burning as well as gasification will produce opposite effect due to the high water content of most organic waste materials. As situation is such, if we can utilize domestic anaerobic digester as an on-site organic waste treatment facility, we can reduce the volume of waste generated in household by a considerable amount. Further it will ease the pressure on the existing system and it will also make the recycling of other waste matter more easy. Another area of concern in Sri Lanka is sewer treatment. As common sewer systems are not widely adopted in town and country planning of our country, the most common method of treating human waste in Sri Lanka is on-site facilities such as pit latrines and septic tanks. These facilities invariably cause localized ground water contamination in its vicinity. In developed countries common sewer systems are adopted and using anaerobic digestion techniques to treat these wastes at mass scale. These facilities turn these waste streams into an energy source and a soil conditioner [4]. Industrial Training Institute (ITI) of Sri Lanka on behalf of the Ministry of Environment has calculated generation potential of methane in Sri Lanka including possible methane emissions from domestic wastewater treatment [5]. ITI estimates that domestic on-site treatment facilities in Sri Lanka (septic tanks, open pits and latrines) produce around 13.6 Gg of methane per year. This amount makes allowance to the partial digestion which occurs anaerobically in septic systems. Almost this entire amount is emitted into the atmosphere

without any utilization. These emissions are considered unacceptable in terms climate change perspective especially as Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kiyoto protocol). As methane is 70 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 in shorter terms, this represents a considerable portion of our carbon foot print. On the other hand, if we considered in term of energy loss, the numbers are more staggering. With a gross calorific value of 55.5 MJ/Kg, 13.6 Gg of methane can produce thermal energy of 754.8 TJ. This is equivalent to a continuous thermal loss of nearly 0.3 MW throughout the year. Thus proper utilization of this resource is of utmost importance. Another point to consider is the extent to which centralized solutions will penetrate the population. More than 83% of our population is living in rural areas [6]. In these areas of low population density, the local government bodies do not have solid waste management mechanisms and in many cases the people simply bury waste within their compounds. Also a centralized sewer treatment facility is impracticable in these areas. Therefore lacking centralized waste & sewer treatment facilities and with a dispersed population, Sri Lanka should seek short and medium term solutions in order to manage these waste streams and to recover their energy potential & improve sanitation. Considering all these facts a domestic anaerobic digester for treating kitchen waste and sewage seems to be the most viable solution in addressing the above requirements.

decomposed organic matter is then converted into fatty acids. In the final phase of decomposition known as methanogenesis, the organic acids are further decomposed into bio gas and a stable residue. Treating sewage and municipal waste using anaerobic digestion is not a new technology and it is the basis for almost all facilities currently employed to treat human excreta. In fact using bio gas to produce heat and power is also not a new thing; in 13th century Marco Polo noted the Chinese used covered sewage tanks to generate power [7]. Therefore the challenge is to make the anaerobic digester and associated equipment more user friendly, easy to maintain, cost effective and to standardize the entire process of implementation & maintenance, so not to expose the users to various issues rising from the system, when implemented in domestic scale.

This study is primarily based on literature surveys and user feedback for domestic biogas systems. Here the design criterion of anaerobic digesters is evaluated in terms of its performance, sanitation and economics. Also an annual cost analysis is carried out to compare investment alternative which a domestic user may choose for his sanitation needs and to establish the appropriateness of a bio gas unit for domestic use. Finally the study will look into possible end use diversification schemes which can be integrate with the biogas system. In this study a family of four adult humans is considered as the study case.

Fig. 1. Anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. The process can be divided into 3 main phases; hydrolysis, fermentation & methanogenesis.

Anaerobic digestion is simply the process in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process of anaerobic digestion consists of three phases. In the first phase of digestion known as hydrolysis, organic materials are broken down into simpler materials such sugar and other monosaccharides. In the second phase known as fermentation the

Anaerobic reactor suited for this system is a continuous flow biogas digester with a central partitioning wall [8]. The process of designing & building an anaerobic digester is fully standardized under Sri Lanka Standard 1292: 2006. The purpose of the central partitioning wall is to prevent scum formation and short circulation of slurry. Although in this case as the total solid content in the waste stream is a very small percentage of its volume scum formation will not be very significant. The hydraulic chamber can be constructed as a soakage pit if the digested slurry is of no use. Some modifications are needed when the digested slurry coming out of the hydraulic chamber is pumped out, as the suction action caused by pumping may disturb the process within the digester. To avoid this, a separate chamber is constructed to which the overflow of the hydraulic chamber is connected. The volume of the digester depends on the hydraulic retention time (HRT) needed. Which is the time needed for complete digestion of the feed and destruction of pathogens & parasitic ova which may have present in human or animal excreta.

HRT has a strong dependence on the temperature in which the digester operates. In most parts of Sri Lanka the ground temperature lies in 200-300C range throughout the day. As such the anaerobic reactions occur in mesophyllic condition. Therefore a HRT of 30-60 days will be sufficient to complete digestion of the feed. A. Pathogen Removal Next consideration in deciding the HRT is inactivation of contaminants from human & animal excreta. Table I gives the time required for inactivation of pathogens & parasitic ova under psychrophilic and mesophyllic conditions [9].
TABLE I Inactivation of Pathogens & Parasitic Ova Pathogens & Phychrophilic Mesophilic parasitic ova condition condition (80-250C) (250-350C) Days Fatality Days Fatality Salmonella 44 100% 7 100% Shigella Poliviruses Schistosoma ova Hookworm ova Ascaris ova E-Coli indicator 30 7-22 30 100 40-60 100% 100% 90% 53% 10-4-10-5 5 9 7 10 36 21 100% 100% 100% 100% 98.8% 10-4

When considering the above results with the possibility of anaerobic reaction shifting into phychrophilic condition, a HRT of around 70-90 day will be sufficient for the ground water contamination caused by the reactor to become acceptable. B. Feed Availability Feed availability is the final factor deciding the volume of the reactor. Per capita solid waste generation varies depending on the economic status of an area. As we are considering about using of this method in sub-urban areas whether the contamination of ground water is much severe and to evaluate a base case, per capita per day organic waste generation of 0.6 kg is considered. Typically it can consider that an adult human excrete 0.4 kg per day and total human waste generated will amount 28 l/person/day [10]. Based on these values the feed availability for the case considered in this study is as given below.
TABLE II Daily feed availability Type Per person per Total availability day per day Human excreta(kg) 0.4 1.6 Kitchen Waste(kg) 0.6 2.4 Total Organic Waste 0.028 0.109 3 Volume (m )

Lanka, quantitative information about it is somewhat scare. A Malaysian study [11] regarding anaerobic co-digestion of kitchen waste and sewage has shown that co-digestion yield a higher amount of methane gas than one substrate alone. Further in addition to increase in chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal rate and the gas yield, its benefits includes dilution of potential toxic compounds, improved balance of nutrients, synergistic effects of microorganisms, increased load of biodegradable organic matter, hygienic stabilization etc. As this experiment was carried out under mesophyllic conditions which naturally exist within digesters in Sri Lanka, we can safely assume that these results are also valid in Sri Lankan context too. Analysis of the results of above mentioned study and other relevant studies [12] [13] suggest that a feed consisting of 60%- 80% kitchen waste with sewage constituting the rest will yield a favourable output in terms of methane gas production (methane content up to 70-75% of total gas volume), shorter digestion period and much higher COD removal percentage than that of when homogeneous substrates of kitchen waste or sewage is used. As per the 4 person case considered in this study, the kitchen waste percentage is around 60% with total solid content around 4% of the total volume. Thus favourable conditions exist in the reactor to give best results in terms of COD removal and power generation. Therefore it is safe to assume methane content of 60% of the total gas yield for the calculations in this study. VI. GAS YEILD Study in Sri Lanka [14], on kitchen waste based systems has shown a practical yield of 0.092-0.094 m3/ kg of feed waste. It is also established that human excreta will yield 0.07 m3/ kg of feed [15] (all values are given at normal temperature and pressure). Therefore for our study a total biogas yield of 0.333 m3 (of which 0.2 m3 as CH4) per day can be considered. VII. ECONOMIC EVALUATION

Based on all above facts digester volume for an average family is around 6-9 m3.


Although anaerobic co-digestion of kitchen waste and sewage is used to some extent in Sri

An understanding of financial and economic returns is key ingredients in the decision-making process towards a household anaerobic digestion based organic waste management system. Financial analysis of costs and benefits provides insight into consumer willingness to invest in an anaerobic digester instead of a septic tank by capturing potential net returns to the household. The main economic output of this scheme is the bio gas, which can be utilized to produce heat, electricity or both in a Combined Heat and Power application. Following calculations evaluate Calorific value for 1 m3 of CH4 = 36 MJ

(At 250C and 1 atm) For the study case, Daily energy availability = 36 MJ 0.2 m3 = 7.2 MJ Only CH4 provides energy from combustion of biogas. Other constitutes such as CO2 absorbs energy from combustion. Also the burner used in most bio gas stoves in Sri Lanka is a standard burner with its regulator needle removed to allow increase the volume of biogas injected into the stove to gain approximately the same power as from a standard burner using LPG. Therefore 60% burner efficiency is considered in this study. Daily availability of useful heat = 4.32 MJ Survey carried out during this study showed that a family of 4 normally consume a 12.5 kg LGP cylinder for 23 days. According to manufacturer data [16], LPG has a calorific value of 49 MJ/kg. Considering a burner efficiency of 70%, Daily heat requirement =

considered after 10 years of operation of a bio gas system to account the uncertainty. A. Equivalent Annual Cost (EAC) calculation for a normal septic tank Capital cost = 40,343.6 LKR Interest rate = 8% Period = 20 years

0 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 -20000 -40000 -60000 Equivalent Anuel cost Annual cost

(For cooking purpose) = 18.6 MJ/day Based on these calculations it is visible that bio gas produced from anaerobic digestion will bring down the annual LPG cylinder requirement per family of four from 16 to 12. Thus an annual saving of 7440.00 LKR is achievable under the current price of LPG in domestic market (1860.00 LKR per 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder). Main investment alternative present in Sri Lanka other than an anaerobic digester for domestic sanitation needs are either a normal septic tank or a precast septic tank. In the following section an annual equivalent cost analysis is carried out to compare these investment alternatives. Cost estimations for construction of a septic tank and a precast septic tank for the use of a family of 4 persons are attached in the appendix. Normally domestic septic tanks in Sri Lanka are constructed as an over-design which will require de-slugging only after 15-20 years into operation. These cost estimates are prepared giving allocations for these facts. Further precast septic tanks will need annual de-slugging due to their limited capacity (around 1 m3). De-slugging will cost around 5000 LKR, depending on the local government rates in the respective area. From the user feedback collected during this study it was that the capital cost for an anaerobic digester and other associated equipment for domestic use is around 70,000-100000 LKR under current rates (march, 2011). Therefore a capital cost of 100,000 LKR is considered for this analysis. As per user feedback collected during this study, it is possible to operate a well maintained bio gas system for more than 10 years without major repair work. As situation is such, for this study a repair work of worth 10,000 LKR is

Fig. 2. Annual cost and equivalent annual cost for normal septic tank

B. Equivalent Annual Cost calculation for precast septic tank Capital cost = 35,432 LKR Annual de-slugging Cost = 5,000 LKR Gradient of the de-slugging Cost = 5% Interest rate = 8% Period = 20 years EAC
( ( ) )

= -10,368.1 LKR 0 -5000 -10000 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20

-20000 -25000 -30000 -35000 -40000 Equivalent Annual Cost Annual Cost

Fig. 3. Annual cost and equivalent annual cost for precast septic tank

C. Equivalent Annual Cost calculation for anaerobic digester Capital cost = 100,000 LKR Annual saving from LP gas Cost = 7,440 LKR Gradient of the saving = 10%

Service cost after 10 years = 10,000 LKR Interest rate = 8% Period = 20 years

Daily electricity production =

= 0.5 kWh

Monthly electricity production = 15 kWh Therefore the maximum economical return from this system will occur if the consumer monthly electricity consumption is reduced from the highest tariff tier (36 LKR/kWh) [17]. As such the maximum annual saving is as below, Maximum annual saving=15 kWh 12 36 LKR/kWh = LKR 6480.00 Yet when the cost of net metering equipment, energy converters and other necessary infrastructure is considered, this may not be economical as using the biogas for cooking purposes. Therefore the most optimistic method of utilising this resource is combined heat and power application, where greater conversion efficiency can be achieved. There are several methods that can be employed to convert the methane generated into electricity. 1. Using Micro Turbines 2. Organic Ranking Cycle Systems 3. Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) Micro turbine is a small combustion turbine which can produce in fractional kilowatt range to several hundreds of kilowatts of electric power by burning fuel inside a combustion chamber. The operation principle of the micro turbine is based on the micro combustion technology. Micro turbine designs usually consist of a single stage radial compressor, a single stage radial turbine and a recuperator. Recuperators are difficult to design and manufacture because they operate under high pressure and temperature differentials. Exhaust heat can be used for water heating, space heating, drying processes or for absorption chillers which create cold for air conditioning from heat energy instead of electric energy. Figure 5 shows the typical elements in a micro turbine.
1- Generator 2- Air Inlet 3- Compressor 4- Air to recuperator 5- Combustion Chamber 6- Turbine 7- Recuperator 8- Exhaust gases 9- Heat exchanger 10- Exhaust gas outlet 11.- Hot water outlet 12.- Water inlet

( ( )

15000 -5000 -25000 -45000 -65000 -85000 -105000 Annual Cash Flow Equivalent Annual Cash Flow
Fig. 4. Annual cost and equivalent annual cost for anaerobic digester.

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20

VIII. END USE DIVERSIFICATION The main purpose of this kind of waste management system for an ordinary household is to minimize the difficulties face during waste disposal as well as to provide an alternative energy source for day-to-day uses. Methane and the digested slurry are two useful products in the anaerobic digestion. The produced methane can be used to fulfil our energy requirement and the slurry can be used as an organic fertilizer for crops. In almost all the anaerobic digestion units in Sri Lanka, the biogas is used to satisfy energy requirement of cooking and lighting by direct burning of methane. According to observations we made, the average daily gas production is enough to prepare one and half meals per a day. Yet all users may not be satisfied with use of biogas for cooking purposes. Some may prefer an automated system for handling biogas. Therefore the end uses must be diversified in order to attract more users [16]. A. Use of Biogas As net metering scheme is introduced to Sri Lanka by CEB and LECO, generating electricity is another option we can consider. As per above calculations, Daily energy availability from biogas = 7.2 MJ Considering a conversion efficiency of 25%,

Fig. 5. Basic Microturbine elements

Usually the micro-turbines efficiency lies between from 20-30%. When it is used in a combined heat and power cogeneration system, efficiencies of greater than 80% are commonly achieved [18]. A permanent magnet synchronous generator is directly coupled with the turbine by a single shaft and there is no gearbox to reduce the

speed. The typical speed of micro turbines is between 50,000 and 120,000 rpm [19]. As the output frequency is higher than 50 Hz, it is not possible to connect the micro turbine directly to the grid. Therefore we need an AC-DC-AC convertor to generate 50Hz alternative supply from the micro-turbine. Alternately a dc generator can be used. When integrating a micro turbine with the above anaerobic digester there are several factors that come into play. Firstly there are no commercially available fractional kW micro turbines which are suitable for this kind of applications. Further due to its complexity, it may not be easy to maintain by the average user. The capital cost of the micro-turbine is range from $700-1,100/kW (80,000-140,000LKR/kW) [19]. Therefore a detailed engineering work is needed for economic and user friendly integration of a micro turbine into domestic use. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are another immerging technology that can convert the chemical energy in biogas or any other light hydro carbon into electricity. The SOFCs use a solid oxide electrolyte to conduct negative oxygen ions from the cathode to the anode. Therefore the electrochemical oxidation of the oxygen ions with hydrogen or carbon monoxide thus occurs on the anode side. Their construction is rugged than existing Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells and has resistance for CO poisoning. However, vulnerability to sulphur poisoning has been widely observed and as biogas contains traces of H2S, removal of it using adsorbent beds or other means is necessary before the biogas enters the fuel cells. The efficiency of a SOFC is around 50% to 70% [20] and the typical value is about 60%. Its operating temperature is in between 5000C and 10000C [20]. This high operation temperature allows to combined generation of heat and power in residential and industrial applications. The output power of the fuel cell can be designed from 10W up to 100kW. As its output is DC, an invertor is needed to convert it to a 50Hz AC supply when it is connected to the grid via a net metering scheme.

Due to the modular construction and scalability of SOFC, each individual system enjoys the same high efficiency regardless of size and can be used as energy building blocks. Further as it can be configured as compact units which can be installed even under a kitchen table they provides the much needed flexibility in designing end-use mechanisms for the biogas generated. SOFC is the most promising technology for this type of application. Yet it is still in its development stage. Therefore it is hard to find any commercially available systems. Yet there are experimental systems with capacities low as 20 W. thus it provide much promise in integrating SOFC with anaerobic digesters enabling automated use of bio gas generated. The present installation cost of Solid oxide Residential fuel cell is about $1,500/kW [21] and it is not affordable for general public. Yet all signs are there to suggest that the installation cost will come down to affordable levels in a foreseeable future. IX. CONCLUSION

As economic analysis has pointed out, use of an anaerobic digester instead of a traditional septic tank is more economically viable. Therefore this could provide a short and medium term solutions for the problems in the existing in the current waste disposal system generating benefits for the users as well as the country as a whole. Further development is also needed for developing appropriate end-use mechanisms to make these biogas systems more user-friendly and to enhance user satisfaction. Further possibility integrating these systems into households in an aesthetically pleasing manner must also be studied. APPENDIX All monetary values in cost estimates are in Sri Lanka Rupees (LKR) and the rates are according to the building schedule rates (BSR) published by the ICTAD for year 2011.

TABLE III Cost Estimate for a Septic tank (1.35 m X 2.40 m) No 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Description Excavation of common soil up to 2m and depositing excavated material to a distance not exceeding 3m 50m thick 1:3: 6(20) screed concrete 100mm thick 1:2:4(20) concrete in base slab ( r/f paid separately) Tor steel reinforcement to slabs, bent to shape laid in position and tied with G . I . wire as directed. 225mm thick brick wall in cement & sand 1:5 in walls 12mm thick rendering in cement and sand 1 : 3 finished smooth with Pudlo cement. 75mm thick precast R/C slab 1,2mx0.6m Supply & fixing 100mm T joints Total Unit cum sqm cum Kg cum sqm nos nos Qty 6.32 3.25 0.325 26 2.7 13 4 2 Rate 480 400 12000 120 7500 280 1100 350 Amount 3033.6 1300 3900 3120 20250 3640 4400 700 40343.6

No 1 2 3

TABLE IV Cost Estimate for a precast septic tank (3'x6') Discription Excavation Precast 3X6 septic tank Precast Soakage pit 3 dia Total

Unit cum nos nos

Qty 3.4 1 1

Rate 480 22300 11500

Amount 1632 22300 11500 354.32

ACKNOWLEDGMENT Authors like to thank Dr. Ruwan Gamage of University of Moratuwa and Eng. Rohita Ananda of Practical Action (ITDG) for providing opportunity to look into working examples of this waste disposal system in their premises and providing necessary information regarding them. Authors also like to extend their thanks to Eng. D.D. Wijesinghe of CECB for a help given in preparing cost estimates. REFERENCES
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