Kettering University and MSU were the only two Michigan universities mentioned by name by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during the United Soybean Board Workshop.


Biogenic Methane Creation from Organic Material

Olivia Hayden, Tiffany Snow, Silke Keller, and Jennifer Aurandt
Kettering University, 1700 University Avenue, Flint, MI 48504

Silke Keller (left) and Olivia Hayden (right)The North American Advanced Biogas Laboratory (NAAB Lab) focuses on the creation of biogas through anaerobic digestion technology. Anaerobic digestion is the microbial breakdown of biobased material in the absence of oxygen. The result is the formation a biogas, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, which can be upgraded to biogenic methane. The remaining solid material after the anaerobic digestion process is a nutrient rich biofertilizer. This technology presents a closed nutrient loop for plant growth. The NAAB Lab current investigations presented here focus on the creation of biogas through the degradation of soybean plant material, post consumer food waste, and algae-anaerobic digestion sustainable biorefinery for coal fired power plants. In addition, initial investigations are presented on the breakdown of “compostable” biobased products in anaerobic digestion.

Soybeans are the number two crop grown in the state of Michigan and currently after harvest of the soybean the plant residue is undertilled. This project seeks to use the soybean feedstock in anaerobic digestion to improve the overall economics for the soybean growers by producing renewable energy to be used on farm and by creating a sustainable nutrient rich bio-fertilizer, reducing the growers’ cost for chemical fertilizer. As part of this project an economic analysis will be performed by our collaborator, Swedish Biogas International for the implementation of soybean feedstock in biogas facilities. This project is currently funded by the Michigan Soybean Growers Promotion Committee.

Within the United States, approximately 27 million tons of post consumer food waste is produced annually and approximately 29% of all landfilled waste is organic. This amount of organic waste is an untapped resource for energy generation. In this project the feasibility for the anaerobic digestion of post-consumer food waste is analyzed. Landfill waste from Genesys Regional Medical Center was collected and tabulated to determine the fraction of the waste that was organic, paper, and plastic. Chemical characterization and Biological Methane Potential testing demonstrated the ability of post-consumer food waste to be digested. Small scale reactor operation is underway on the organic fraction of the waste will be used in an economic analysis performed by Swedish Biogas International to determine the feasibility of a mono-substrate full-scale plant. Funding for this research is provided by the Michigan Biomass Energy Program.

The need for fossil fuels, and more specifically coal for electric power production, will remain significant for the foreseeable future. It is therefore critical to minimize the environmental impacts of coal utilization for electric power production by developing and deploying sustainable systems to mitigate CO2 and achieve full utilization of inputs and outputs from the system. This research focuses on integration of algae CO2 mitigation technology, currently under investigation at the University of Kentucky (UK) and anaerobic digestion of algae technology, currently under investigation at Kettering University (KU) to provide energy and sustainability for the future.

See the poster from the workshop.

Read more on the United Soybean Biobased Products Workshop.

Olivia Hayden (left) and Silke Keller (right)

Group photo with U.S. Senator Stabenow and U.S. Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack