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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ohio State to Hold First-ever Training Course on Anaerobic Digestion

July 25, 2012

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Ohio State University will hold a first-of-its-kind training course on anaerobic digestion, a waste-management process that livestock farms and wastewater plants are increasingly using to produce biogas, a type of renewable fuel.

The course takes place Sept. 6-7 at the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster in northern Ohio.

“The (anaerobic digestion) industry is growing in Ohio, but there are no educational programs that provide an understanding of the scientific principles underlying the AD process or the daily management of an AD system,” said Yebo Li, the organizer of the course and an OARDC biosystems engineer.

“If the industry is to continue to grow successfully, training must be available for the workforce, including AD operators, regulatory personnel who will oversee permitting and operations, and investors who will provide funding.”

Li said the course is designed for people who already work in the anaerobic digestion industry; those who want to find out if anaerobic digestion is right for their operation, whether a farm, a wastewater plant or otherwise; and those who advise others on waste-management technologies.

The goal, he said, is to provide “a practical understanding of the digestion process and the means to address operational issues in the production of bioenergy from a wide range of feedstocks.”

Anaerobic digesters take in waste materials, or “feedstocks,” such as livestock manure, food-processing waste and municipal sewage sludge, break them down under tightly controlled conditions, and in the process produce useful compost and methane biogas.

Li will present “Fundamentals of Anaerobic Digestion” on the first day of the course. Also on that day will be “Feedstocks for Anaerobic Digestion” by Mark Suchan, quasar energy group; “Options for Biogas Utilization,” Ned Mast, quasar; “Laboratory Analyses: What and Why,” Lo Niee Liew, quasar; and “Lab Activities: How” by Li and Liew.

The second day offers “Managing the Operations” by Annette Berger, KB Compost Services; “Safety Issues,” Dee Jepsen, Ohio State; “AD Co-product Utilization,” Nick Basta, Ohio State; and “Rules and Regulations,” Bruce Bailey, quasar.

Also on the second day will be a tour of quasar’s anaerobic digester on the OARDC campus and an operator panel featuring Chris Weaver of Bridgewater Dairy; Aleksandr Yakhnitsky of the city of Columbus’s digester; and Berger, who also works with Akron’s digester.

Li studies anaerobic digestion as part of his research at OARDC and partners in some of his work with quasar. The Cleveland-based company designed, built and operates an anaerobic digestion system in OARDC’s BioHio Research Park and also has a lab in the park.

Biogas from the quasar digester currently helps generate about a third of the electricity needs on OARDC’s main campus. The system also produces compressed natural gas for use as an alternative fuel in cars and trucks, including about half of quasar’s fleet vehicles and four OARDC vehicles in a new demonstration project.

“As always, economics will play a role in future (anaerobic digestion) development,” Li said. “AD systems require a significant capital investment, and income can vary with changing energy prices and the availability and tipping fees for additional feedstocks.

“However, the effectiveness of AD systems in reducing odor emissions from manure and as a treatment to reduce pathogens are additional reasons they are installed on livestock farms.”

More than 400 livestock farms in Ohio are potential candidates for anaerobic digesters, Li said, citing figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AgSTAR program.

Also according to AgSTAR, Ohio has more than 1,700 facilities that treat wastewater, that generate sludge as a result and that could employ anaerobic digestion to improve the process.

In all, Li said, Ohio produces some 330,000 dry tons of sewage sludge a year that anaerobic digestion could benefit, either by reducing odors and pathogens, by producing energy and compost, or both.

The course runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sept. 6 and from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sept. 7, both days in OARDC’s Shisler Conference Center, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster.

Registration costs $250 and includes all materials and continental breakfast, lunch and snacks on both days. The registration deadline is Aug. 31. Class size is limited to 25.

Participants should send their name, affiliation, address, telephone number, fax number and email address to Mary Wicks, OARDC/OSU, Administration Building, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691. Checks should be made payable to OARDC/OSU.

Participants will be eligible for 12.0 Ohio Professional Engineers continuing professional development credits. Continuing education credits also have been requested but not yet approved in the areas of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Waste Water Certification and Ohio Registered Sanitarians.

For more information, contact Wicks at 330-202-3533 or, or download the program brochure at (pdf).

Development of the course was supported in part by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Education Fund.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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Kurt Knebusch
Yebo Li, Mary Wicks