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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Anaerobic Digestion of Animal Manure and Influence of Organic Loading Rate and Temperature on Process Performance, Microbiology, and Methane Emission From Digestates

Ahlberg-Eliasson, Karin; Westerholm, Maria; Isaksson, Simon; Schnurer, Anna


Biogas production from manure is of particular value in regard of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing nutrient re-circulation. However, the relatively low energy content and the characteristics of manure often result in low degradation efficiency, and the development of operating strategies is required to improve the biogas yield and the economic benefits. In this study, the potential to enhance the performance of two full-scale biogas plants operating with cattle manure, in mono-digestion or combined with poultry manure, was investigated. Four continuously fed laboratory-scale reactors were operated in sets of two, in which the temperature in one reactor in each set was increased from 37-42 degrees C to 52 degrees C. The potential to increase the capacity was thereafter assessed by increasing the organic loading rate (OLR), from ca 3 to 5 kg volatile solids (VS)/ m(3) and day. The processes were evaluated with both chemical and microbiological parameters, and in addition, the residual methane potential (RMP) was measured to evaluate the risk of increased methane emissions from the digestate. The results showed that both processes could be changed from mesophilic to themophilic temperature without major problems and with a similar shift in the microbial community profile to a typical thermophilic community, e.g., an increase in the relative abundance of the phylum Firmicutes. However, the temperature increase in the reactor co-digesting cattle and poultry manure caused a slight accumulation of fatty acids (2 g/l) and reduced the specific methane production, most likely due to ammonia inhibition (0.4-0.7 g NH3/l). Still, during operation at higher OLR, thermophilic as compared to mesophilic temperature slightly increased the methane yield and specific methane production, in both investigated processes. However, the higher OLR decreased the overall degree of degradation in all processes, and this showed a positive correlation with increased RMP values. Chemical analyses suggested that high RMP values (40-98 Nml gVS(-1)) were related to the degradation of cellulose, hemicellulose, and volatile fatty acid enriched in the digestate. Conclusively, increased temperature and load can increase the methane yield from manure but can result in less efficient degradation and increased risks for methane emissions during storage and handling of the digestate.


methane production; residual methane potential; cattle and poultry manure; process optimization; ammonia inhibition; microbial community structure; operational temperature

Published in

Frontiers in Energy Research
2021, volume: 9, article number: 740314

Authors' information

Ahlberg-Eliasson, Karin
The Rural Economy and Agricultural Societies
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG7 Affordable and clean energy

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