Performance of thermophilic anaerobic digesters using inoculum mixes with enhanced methanogenic diversity

BACKGROUND Reportedly, various mixes of seeds were quasi-randomly selected to startup anaerobic digesters. In contrast, this study examines the impact of inoculating thermophilic anaerobic digesters with a designed mix of non-acclimated seeds based on their methanogen composition, using Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (QPCR) of 16S rRNA gene, to achieve high abundance and diversity of methanogens. RESULTS Based on QPCR results, two seed mixes were selected to inoculate two anaerobic digesters: digester (A) was inoculated with a control seed consisting of digestate, manure, and activated sludge; and digester (B) was inoculated with a further methanogen-enriched seed consisting of the control seed with added compost and leachate. Both seed combinations yielded a balanced microflora that is able to achieve a successful startup. However, upon reaching steady state, digester B exhibited lower propionate levels, resulting in lower VFA concentration and increased buffering capacity, indicating greater stability. Acetotrophs and hydrogenotrophs were dominated by Methanosarcinaceae and Methanobacteriales, respectively, in both digesters, exhibiting an average ratio of 66-to-34% in A and 76-to-24% in B during steady state. CONCLUSION The inoculation strategy in digester B resulted in improved stability, lower propionate concentration and 10% higher relative abundance of acetotrophs.

Ghanimeh S, El-Fadel M, Saikaly PE (2017) Performance of thermophilic anaerobic digesters using inoculum mixes with enhanced methanogenic diversity. Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology. Available:

This study was supported by the National Council for Scientific Research-Lebanon, and the Masri Institute of Energy and Natural Resources at the American University of Beirut. The experimental setup was obtained through a grant from the US Agency for International Development. Special thanks are extended to Mr. Khaled Salam for his assistance in performing the QPCR analysis.


Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology


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