Digester Operations Training is something you just can’t find everywhere.  These projects are innovative and complex, you just can’t learn to operate them by reading instructions in textbooks. So, what better way to experience and learn about the renewable natural gas operation, than first hand?
 The American Biogas Council recognized this need, and decided to provide intensive 3-Day Workshops for digester operators, operations managers and owners which consisted of both classroom training, and on-site observations to experience hands-on operations of the digesters, pumps, compressors, control room scenarios, gas upgrading site, and observe routine maintenance and operational issues that arise.
The first training of this kind was conducted on the West Coast in the San Francisco Bay area.  The photos below (courtesy of ABC) are from ABC’s second training held in Kenansville, which used the Optima KV swine waste to energy system for it’s Hands-on Operational Experience. The instructors for the class were Bernie Sheff and Dan Waineo of Montrose Environmental Group, Craig Frear of Regenis, Tanja Vujic of Duke University, and Gus Simmons, Director of Bioenergy at Cavanaugh & Associates.

The Classroom training tackled the chemistry and math requirements for digesters, covered typical digester equipment, including gas scrubbing and upgrading systems, and went over the feedstock, nutrients, characteristics and composition of the renewable natural gas.  It also covered the anaerobic digestion process, H2S removal, solids and liquid separation and digestate.

Some of the digester operations training was held at the Optima KV project where the students observed the actual anaerobic digesters to get an up close and personal look at the HDPE covers, which capture the wastes from the swine farms and turn it into biogas.  Manure and wastes from the animal barns are flushed into the digesters that range in size from 1.7 to 3 million gallons.  Through the process of anaerobic digestion, bacteria consume the organic waste, respiring energy-rich biogas.  The biogas is captured from the digester at each farm, conditioned to remove particulates and moisture, and piped via low pressure, small diameter pipes to a centralized refinery or gas upgrading system.  The students observed the low power compressors at each farm that pull the biogas from beneath the synthetic cover, filter it for particulates and remove moisture through a simple condenser.  After this pre-conditioning step, the directed biogas, or Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is pumped via low pressure, small diameter pipes to a centralized location on a participating farm.  At this Gas Upgrading Site, the students visualized the pressurization of the biogas, cleaning and purification and removal of constituents.  They experienced first-hand the controls area, which measures the gas, and constituents present, and saw that the methane was almost 99% at the injection point into the natural gas pipeline.  By visiting the actual farms, they could see that the farmers are able to continue with their normal operations while bioenergy is being produced.

After the training the American Biogas Council tweeted this:  “Did you know that Optima KV’s RNG project was the first to inject gas of any kind conventional or renewable, into the NC pipeline?  It was also THE ABC Project of the Year.  Our Digester Operator Training Students got intimate with the hog manure> biogas> RNG system.  Thx @GusSimmons”

Future Digester Operations training events are scheduled in New England, and Oshkosh, Wisconsin



Thanks to the American Biogas Council for these awesome pictures; you can see the whole event on flicker: