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FACT SHEET

BIOGAS QUALITY & CLEANING TECHNOLOGY


Australian red meat processing plants generate significant volumes of high strength wastewater which is commonly
treated using anaerobic digestion systems. Synthetic covers can be installed to capture methane produced and
dispose/use the biogas generated from the anaerobic ponds.

Anaerobic treatment of wastewater from Australian red meat processing plants produces significant volumes of biogas.
Biogas mainly consists of methane and carbon dioxide, but also contains a number of other constituents which can
potentially have adverse impacts on equipment and downstream uses. In this study, hydrogen sulphide (HS) and water
(H2O) were identified as constituents that could potentially warrant removal and management. The corrosive nature of
HS is well known. Water can promote the corrosivity of the biogas, lead to higher wear and tear in reciprocating gas
engines and also accumulate at any low sections of pipe causing biogas flow restrictions, if the piping system is not
designed with correct falls and condensate removal.

The three most common uses of recovered biogas typically include:


1. boiler fuel;
2. fuel for cogeneration systems (i.e. generation of electricity and heat);
3. flaring (when energy recovery is not viable).

Biogas is saturated with H2O when produced from the anaerobic wastewater treatment process and can condense
when cooled. The presence of water promotes the corrosivity of the biogas components; including H2S, carbon dioxide
(CO2) and oxygen (O2). For reciprocating gas engines, water condensation in combustion chambers can wash the
lubricating oil off cylinder walls, resulting in higher wear and tear. Water can also accumulate at any low sections of pipe
causing biogas flow restrictions, if the piping system is not designed with correct falls and condensate removal. Water
(and condensate) can be easily removed using a knock-out pot (as shown in Figure 1) and drip trap, U-trap or
condensate collection sump. Additional water removal can be achieved through refrigeration of the biogas, which
cools the biogas to below the dew point temperature, forcing the water to condense.

A biogas sampling program undertaken at a number of abattoirs identified H2S concentrations between 1,000-1,500
ppm, which is known to cause corrosion of process equipment. Sulphur dioxide (SO2), formed from H2S during the
combustion process, can lead to the production of sulphurous (H2SO3) and sulphuric (H2SO4) acid from the reaction
with H2O when combustion exhaust gases are cooled below the dew point. The lubricating oil of gas reciprocating
engines can also become contaminated with sulphur and require more frequent changing.

Figure 1 - Schematic diagram & picture of a typical knock-out pot (Varec)

BIOGAS QUALITY REQUIREMENTS


Comprehensive analysis of the biogas should be undertaken when considering the beneficial use of biogas. The number
of parameters tested for will be dependent on the desired end use (i.e. internal combustion engine, microturbine or in
FACT SHEET

the existing boiler). Supplier information and literature values have been summarised in Table 1, which provides a
summary of the major adverse effects attributed to various components and impurities in biogas.

Biogas component Flare Boiler Reciprocating gas Microturbine


engine
Methane (CH4) >50% >50% >60% >55%
Hydrogen sulphide Not specified Not specified <250 ppm <5,000 ppm
(H2S)
Water (H2O) Free water removal Free water removal <80% relative <55% relative
humidity humidity
Ammonia (NH3) Not specified Not specified <25 ppm <200 ppm
Chlorine (CL2) Not specified Not specified <40 ppm 250 ppm
Flourine (F2) Not specified Not specified <40 ppm 1,500 ppm
Siloxanes Not specified Not specified <2 ppm <0.005 ppm
Dust Not specified Not specified 50mg/10kWh 20 ppm
Particle size Not specified Not specified <3m <10 m
Table 1 Summary of biogas quality requirements.

TYPICAL BIOGAS CLEANING REQUIREMENTS


Table 2 is a summary of the requirement for H2S and water removal for the different biogas use options, based on a
review of the quality requirements and an inlet H2S concentration of 1,500 ppm.

Process Equipment H2S removal H2O removal


Flare No (limit not specified) Yes - Free water removal (e.g. knock-out pot)
Boiler No (limit not specified) Yes - Free water removal (e.g. knock-out pot)
Reciprocating gas engine Yes (< 200 ppm) Yes - Drying (e.g. refrigeration)
Microturbine No (< 5,000 ppm) Yes - Drying (e.g. refrigeration)
Table 2 - H2S and H2O removal requirements for different biogas use options.

H2S REMOVAL TECHNOLOGIES


A number of H2S removal technologies were identified, outlined and evaluated, in terms of suitability, operability and
capital and operating costs. A summary of a selection of treatment systems is shown in Table 3. Capital and operating
costs presented are indicative only and will differ based on a range of specific site and project factors. The accuracy of
these estimates is typically around 30%.

Removal technology 50 m3/hr 150 m3/hr 500 m3/hr


Water scrubbing - $240,000 $380,000
Iron absorptive media $150,000 $190,000 $260,000
Biological scrubbing $200,000 $300,000 $550,000
Biological trickling filter - $250,000 $450,000
Table 3 - Summary of various H2S removal technologies

Operational costs can contribute to a significant on-going expense for a biogas energy recovery installation and need to
be considered when selecting the preferred biogas cleaning technology. Table 4 contains a breakdown of operating
costs for various H2S removal technologies.

Operating costs (per annum) 50 m3/hr 150 m3/hr 500 m3/hr


Water scrubbing - $15,000 $25,000
FACT SHEET

Iron absorptive media $12,000 $36,000 $120,000


Biological scrubbing $6,000 $12,000 $24,000
Biological trickling filter - $3,000 $6,000
Table 4 - Operating costs for various H2S removal technologies

Even though the presence of higher than acceptable concentrations of H2S in the biogas will lead to additional engine
operating costs (e.g. sulphur contamination of engine oil, corrosion of certain engine components), the most economical
approach may be to appropriately manage these issues rather than remove H2S from the biogas. A review of likely
diminished equipment life needs to be carried out prior to adopting any strategy. Additional costs for increased oil
change frequency and selection of alternative materials of construction for the engine (such as appropriate coatings, or
corrosion resistant alloys) can potentially be more economical than installing H2S removal technologies. Close
consultation with equipment suppliers is required to identify any impact on equipment warranty, service agreement and
maintenance schedule and help inform this decision.

RECOMMENDATIONS
In summary, the following is recommended:
Biogas quality should be considered at the initial stages of concept development;
Potential equipment suppliers should be consulted to confirm the biogas quality requirements;
Biogas sampling should be undertaken to identify the concentrations of constituents which could potentially
have adverse process and mechanical impacts;
Consideration should be given to the most economical approach to manage the impacts of H2S in the biogas in
consultation with equipment suppliers, while taking into account warranty conditions, service agreements and
maintenance schedules;
If deemed required, technology options for contaminant removal should be investigated and assessed
considering the specific site preferences and considerations.