Digester Performance Partnership

Examination of Anaerobic Digester Performance Protocol Use

ASERTTI, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency's AgSTAR Program, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development jointly supported the development of a protocol (Martin 2007) for characterizing, evaluating and monitoring performance of the growing number of on-farm anaerobic digesters. Since publication in January 2007 of "A Protocol for Quantifying & Reporting the Performance of Anaerobic Digestion Systems for Livestock Manures," ASERTTI has conducted additional work in the anaerobic digester area through a grant funded by the Blue Moon Fund. 

The Blue Moon Fund project launched a study titled "Pilot Performance and Cost Database for Anaerobic Digestion Systems for Livestock Manures" to better understand how the protocol was being used, and find ways to increase the volume and quality of performance data available to the public. The project, completed in 2009,  produced an MS Access database populated with data on installed farm anaerobic digester systems, pre-made reports summarizing performance data for Web posting, and a final report describing experiences and identifying problems that researchers have encountered in using the protocol.  Based on information gathered during the course of the Blue Moon funded project, the primary obstacle to using the protocol is the overall cost. The cost for at least 12 months of sampling and laboratory analysis, as well as for writing the performance report, has deterred researchers from attempting protocol use. The cost issue will be addressed to a limited extent by the release of an international protocol that has tiers of protocol use rather than the current all-or-nothing approach.  However, funding for protocol use will continue to be a significant issue.