Ohio State University (OSU) will hold a first-of-its-kind training course on anaerobic digestion (AD), 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 (OARDC) in Wooster, OH.


"The (anaerobic digestion) industry is growing in Ohio, but there are no educational programs that provide an understanding of the scientific principles underlying the anaerobic digestion process or the daily management of an anaerobic digestion system," says 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, OSU; "AD Co-product Utilization," Nick Basta, OSU; 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 one-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.

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. 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.

For more information, contact Wicks at 330-202-3533 or wicks.14@osu.edu.