Phase II facility is three times larger than the original pilot plant.
Members of the public and city officials from Akron, Ohio, came together Oct. 30, 2013, to dedicate an expansion of KB BioEnergy’s anaerobic digestion (AD) facility which converts biosolids from that city into electricity and heat as well as produces pelletized organics. The new AD facility is three times larger than the initial pilot anaerobic digester built by the company in 2007.
The city of Akron and KB BioEnergy have had a public-private partnership since 1989 to manage waste solids through the city’s composting facility. In 2007, the city contracted with KB BioEnergy to construct and manage an AD system (Phase I) to process one-third of the city’s biowaste solids. The success of that project has resulted in a renewed contract between the city and KB BioEnergy to construct the new AD facility to accommodate 100 percent of the city’s biosolid stream.
The facility uses technology from German-based Schmack Biogas Ag. According to KB BioEnergy, while traditional AD technologies can process material ranging from 3 to 5 percent solids, its system can handle up to 30 percent solids content. Applied Technologies, Brookfield, Wis., was responsible for the design and construction review of the project. PNC Bank, Pittsburgh, provided the majority of the financing.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Annette Berger, vice president of operations for KB BioEnergy, said, “Today is the culmination of an enormous collective effort which began in 2005 when the concept of anaerobic digestion was considered.”
At that time, she said composting had served the city well for more than 25 years. The only drawback in that technology was the odor. “So we searched and built a pilot project in 2007, that would manage one third of the solids that we typically would have composted.”
That phase I AD facility has been operating successfully since 2008. Berger said the new facility will handle 100 percent of the biosolids.
Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic discussed how the city moved from composting its biosolids to adopting anaerobic digestion. “We took waste material and turned it into something that was useful in many gardens and flowerbeds across the country as well as Keep Akron Beautiful. It helped beautify the city and that was a good thing, but as we looked at technology and looked down the road, the important part was to keep ahead of the technology.”
Plusquellic said that he attended a tradefair in Hanover, Germany, 10 years ago, to recruit businesses to Akron. He said that a “spin-off benefit” indirectly benefitting the citizens of Akron was his visit to Zurich, Germany, to learn about AD technology, “It worked there. There was no reason it couldn’t work in the United States, even though no one was using it.” He added, “That side benefit, we see here today.”
Brian Gresser, manager of Akron’s Water Reclamation Facility which provides the sewage sludge to the digester says that wastewater utilities can reduce costs and increase sustainability because the energy generated from the biosolids is greater than the energy needed to treat them. In 2012, the Water Reclamation Facility also began using energy captured from an adjacent landfill to help offset its electricity needs. With the addition of the larger AD facility, Gresser says, “We will be able to supply all of our electricity needs through on-site generation from renewable sources.”
Thomas Kurtz, president of KB BioEnergy, said, “The table is set now to run a facility that will manage solids in the city of Akron for multiple generations.”