Unit 4.4: Reasons for Digester Failure

Background and Guiding Questions

Labatut and Gooch (undated) state that correct design and control of the digester system’s parameters are essential to maximize process efficiency, increase stability, and prevent system failure. Up to 1998, failure rates of on-farm anaerobic digesters in the U.S. were at a staggering 70% and 63% for complete-mixed and plug-flow reactors, respectively. Today, with improved system design, better construction practices, and an increased number of qualified companies to develop anaerobic digestion projects, the probability of long-term system failure is likely to be somewhat lower. Nevertheless, underperformance and short-term failure are still common problems in on-farm anaerobic digestion systems across the U.S.

Guiding Questions

  • Why do digesters fail?

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