Open Access Review

Comparative review of foam formation in biogas plants and ruminant bloat

Lucie Moeller1*, Kati Goersch1, Juergen Neuhaus2, Andreas Zehnsdorf1 and Roland Arno Mueller1

Author Affiliations

1 Environmental and Biotechnology Centre, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstrasse 15, Leipzig, 04318, Germany

2 Institute of Bacteriology and Mycology, University of Leipzig, An den Tierkliniken 29, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

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Energy, Sustainability and Society 2012, 2:12  doi:10.1186/2192-0567-2-12

Published: 16 July 2012

Abstract

This review gives an overview of the current knowledge concerning the problem of foam formation in the process of anaerobic digestion in biogas plants that utilize renewable resources or biogenic waste material for biogas production. Process upsets in biogas production induced by foam formation can have a negative impact on the efficiency of biogas plants. The foam can block gas pipes and cause severe damage to the bioreactor equipment, ranging from a failure of the feeders to a damage of the roof of the biogas plant. The most common foam removal methods - stirring in the foam, adding anti-foaming agents, diminishing substrate feeding, and altering the biogas reactor management - are not always successful. However, the reasons for the excessive foam formation during the biogas production process have not yet been elucidated in detail. In contrast, foam building in the rumen of ruminants as a cause for bloat has been studied thoroughly. In general, the interaction between proteins, polysaccharides (mucilage), and small plant particles is assumed to be the crucial factor. As the fermentation process in the rumen has many similarities with the biogas production process, the current research results on bloat in ruminants are summarized and compared with the process of foaming in biogas plants.

Keywords:
Foam formation; Biogas plants; Renewable resources; Biological wastes; Causes; Treatment; Prevention; Bloat