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Wastes 21 (1987) 139-142

Short Communication Effect of Inorganic Nitrogen Supplementation on Biogas Production

ABSTRACT A decrease diammonium in the C:N ratio from 40 to about 27 by the addition of urea and phosphate (DAP) showed a slight (8-11% ) improvement AmmoniJication in of that

anaerobic digestion of cattle waste for biogas production. organic nitrogen of cattle waste occurred net increase nitrogen in ammoniacal nitrogen is not a limiting factor was observed.

during the digestion process and a The data suggest digestion of cattle waste and

in anaerobic

8&100/o loss occurs during the process.

INTRODUCTION In countries with little or no fossil fuel reserves, a variety of renewable sources are being examined as alternative energy resources, and anaerobic digestion of agricultural wastes for methane production has been given much attention. However, the slow rate of gas production has been a major limitation to widespread use of this technology. Digestion of lignocellulose, a major constituent of these wastes, is the rate limiting step in the process (Hobson et al. 1981). Physical, chemical and biological pretreatment processes have been tested to improve the rate and extent of anaerobic digestion of lignocellulosic wastes, but without much success. An important chemical parameter which affects microbial activity is the carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. An optimum C :N ratio of 20-30 has been suggested for digestion of various wastes, including cattle waste (Acharya, 1958; Singh, 1971; Meynell, 1976). Use of commercially-available nitrogen may improve microbial biomass production, thereby improving the
139 Biological Wastes 0269-7483/87/$03.50 1987. Printed in Great Britain 0 Elsevier Applied Science Publishers Ltd, England,


R. K. Malik, R. Singh, P. Tauro

biological reaction. Conversion of this nitrogen to a slow release form (microbial N) would improve the efficiency of digested slurry as a nitrogenous fertilizer. With the above two objectives, experiments were conducted on the effect of nitrogen supplementation in the form of urea and diammonium phosphate (DAP) on biogas production and nitrogen immobilization in the organic form.

METHODS Experiments were conducted in three 2.5 m3 pilot-scale biogas digesters of KVIC design (floating drum type) at a retention time of about 30 days (Singh et al., 1985). Fresh cattle waste was collected daily from the Animal Farm of the Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, where the cattle were routinely fed on green fodder and concentrate. Cattle-waste slurry in water (1: 1, w/v) was fed into the digester once a day. Urea and DAP were mixed at the rate of l-25 and 2.5 g per litre of slurry, respectively, before feeding as 80 litres of the waste slurry plus 100 g urea or 200 g DAP. After stabilization of the system for two retention times (60 days), analysis of fresh and effluent slurries were made as described earlier (Jain et al., 1981). Total nitrogen was estimated by a microKjeldha1 method. Ammoniacal and nitrate nitrogen were estimated using MgO and Devardas alloy in undried fresh and effluent slurries (Bremner & Keeney, 1965). Daily gas production was monitored by meter.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Nitrogen is an essential element for biological activity. Most groups of digester microflora; cellulytics, methanogenic, etc., have been reported to metabolize simple nitrogen sources such as ammonium salts (Zeikus, 1977; Hobson et al., 1981). The effects of addition of easily available nitrogen on biogas production are shown in Table 1. An effect ranging from about a 14% decrease during the initial period, to an improvement by about 24% in gas production in the later stages of the experiment, was noted. Addition of urea and DAP to cattle waste improved the 7 months average gas production by 8-10%. Improved gas production correlated with slightly improved digestion of cattle waste solids (Table 2). Transformation of nitrogen between ammoniacal and organic forms was also monitored. Little immobilization of added nitrogen occurred in the

Inorganic nitrogen supplementation on biogas production TABLE 1 Effect of N Supplementation on Biogas Production Month
Cattle waste (CW)


C W + Urea C W + DAP

Gas production (litres day-1)

Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. 600 340 405 405 846 713 551 517 388 414 461 977 881 606 567 372 431 486 925 824 600

March April Average

non-ammoniacal form and most of the added nitrogen was observed in the ammoniacal form (Table 2) and during digestion; a loss of 8-13% nitrogen was noted. Release of ammoniacal nitrogen during cattle waste digestion and increased levels of ammoniacal nitrogen in urea- and DAP-amended cattle waste suggest that availability of nitrogen was not a limiting factor in the anaerobic digestion of cattle waste though the C:N ratio suggested it was. The increase in the levels of ammoniacal nitrogen during digestion of cattle waste indicates a faster rate of ammonification than that of assimilation into the microbial biomass. The increase in ammoniacal nitrogen in cattle waste alone and small increase (12-16%) in nonammoniacal nitrogen in nitrogen-amended cattle waste over the control slurry further suggests that nitrogen is not in limiting supply for microbial biomass production.
TABLE 2 Average Nitrogen Balance Analyses of Cattle-waste Slurry
Parameter Fresh slurry CW Digested slurry C W + urea C W + D AP

Total Solids (%)

TKN (%) NH4-N (%) NO3-N (%) N-loss (%)

9.8 0.12 0.004 0-001

6.9 0.125 0-02 0.00!

6'5 0-163 0.045 0.003 8.5

6"6 0-155 0-043 0.002 10.0

Nitrogen supplementation at 0.057%, C:N ratio: CW = 40, N-Supplemented CW = 27.


R. K. Malik, R. Singh, P. Tauro

Since only 50% of organic matter in cattle waste is degraded during anaerobic digestion at a retention time of 50 days, the analytical C :N ratio of 40 is not the real indicator of this parameter. Based on degradable organic carbon, a functional C :N ratio of about 20 must exist in u n a m e n d e d cattle waste. Hence there is no significant effect of added nitrogen on biogas production and nitrogen immobilization. F r o m the microbial cell C :N ratio of about 5 and a growth yield of about 0-1 g per gram of substrate under anaerobic conditions, a C :N ratio of about 50 may be suggested for balanced microbial growth.

REFERENCES Acharya, C. N. (1958). Preparation o fuel gas and manure by anaerobicfermentation f of organic materials, ICAR Ser., Bull. No. 15, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, 1-58. Bremner, J. M. & Keeney, D. R. (1965). Steam distillation method for determination of ammonium, nitrate and nitrite. Anal. Chim. Acta, 32, 485-96. Hobson, P. N., Bousfield, S. & Summers, R. (1981). Methane production from agricultural and domestic wastes, Applied Science Pub. Ltd, London. Jain, M. K., Singh, R. & Tauro, P. (1981). Anaerobic digestion of cattle and sheep wastes. Agricultural Wastes, 3, 65-73. Meyneil, P. J. (1976). Methane: Planning a digester, Prism, Detroit. Singh, R. B. (1971). Biogas plant: Generating methane from organic wastes. Gobar Gas Research Station, Ajitmal, Etwwah (UP), India, 1-36. Singh, R., Malik, R. K. & Tauro, P. (1985). Anaerobic digestion of cattle waste at various retention times: A pilot plant study. Agricultural Wastes, 12, 313 16. Zeikus, J. G. (I 977). The biology of methanogenic bacteria, Bacterial Rev., 41, 514.

R. g. Malik, R. Singh & P. Tauro Department of Microbiology, Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar-125004, India
(Received 31 August 1986; accepted 25 October 1986)