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Anaerobic Digester Design and Operation

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A Sourcebook for the Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas in California (282 pgs.)


The rapid growth in the size of dairy operations has resulted in new laws and regulations governing the handling and disposal of manure. One of the more promising methods of manure management is anaerobic digestion.


One of the biggest challenges that livestock producers face is managing manure and process water in a way that controls odors and protects quality. Biogas recovery systems can help producers meet this challenge.

This fact sheet will explain the fate of the major nutrients in dairy manure plus Johne’s and pathogens as they pass through an anaerobic digester.


Net metering provides a better price for electricity sold to the grid by producers with generators fueled by biogas from the anaerobic digestion of livestock waster. The increased revenue improves the return on anaerobic digestion systems, which are costly to install.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) adopted net metering standards which govern how small alternative electric generators – who use technologies such as solar panels or fuel cells – connect to the electric distribution system and how they are compensated for generation they provide into the electric utility distribution system. (June 22, 2006)


The recipe for shifting from often foreign and polluting fossil fuels to domestic, clean renewable sources of energy includes multiple ingredients like portfolio laws, financial incentives, and net metering. (August 16, 2006)

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This technical publication reviews the potential of using manure anaerobic digestion (AD) systems on livestock production facilities to produce electricity or biogas to supply farm energy needs.

Biogas and Anaerobic Digestion Safety

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It’s unpredictable and can kill quickly – even in spaces you’ve entered before without incident.

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Manure gases are readily and rapidly generated by the microorganisms found in raw manure. Covered manure storage and collection pits, covered lagoons, upright storage tanks and tanker spreaders are examples of places where manure gases can accumulate to deadly levels.

Dangers of Manure Gas

Agricultural safety and health at Penn State is multi-dimensional and ranges in scope from engineering to reduce exposure to hazards, to safety training for youth, to managing agricultural emergencies.

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An anaerobic digester is a managed temperature waste treatment facility used to biologically treat waste as a component of a waste treatment system.

OSHA's mission is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance

History of Anaerobic Digestion

Anecdotal evidence indicates that biogas was used for heating bath water in Assyria during the l0th century BC and in Persia during the 16th century.

The fact, that a combustible methane gas is produced from anaerobic digestion of biological material, was recognized by Von Helmont in 1630, Shirley in 1667, Volta in 1776, Priestly in 1790, and Dalton in1804.

Although some effort has focused on the AD of caged layer poultry manures, the manures from dairy and swine operations tend to be more suitable for farm-based energy conversion.

Introduction to Anaerobic Digestion


Questions that need to be answered before investing your money.

Controlled anaerobic, or oxygen-free, digestion of animal manure is a way to treat manure to prevent foul odor production while generating a usable energy product.


Mark Moser, RCM Digesters, Powerpoint presentation.

Manure Management Systems Overview

Plain Text

One of the biggest challenges that livestock producers face is managing manure and process water in a way that controls odors and protects environmental quality. Biogas recovery systems can help producers meet this challenge.


Questions that need to be answered before investing your money.

The Anaerobic Digestion Process

PDF, 2.2 MB

Perry L. McCarty, Stanford University.

This guide is intended to provide quantitative information so that the feasibility of methane generation can be evaluated for a given situation.


Growth and concentration of the livestock industry create opportunities for the proper disposal of the large quantities of manures generated at dairy, swine, and poultry farms. See section 2 page 2-1 in Methane Recovery from Animal Manures The Current Opportunities Casebook.

Advances in methane digestion technology are finding success in Iowa. Several different types of anaerobic digesters have recently been installed in Iowa.


A preliminary analysis indicates that it is economically feasible for larger dairies to utilize the by-products from livestock to produce methane. This works best for dairies with 300 or more cows.


The basic design concepts proven by successful digesters built in the 1980s are applicable today. Additional benefits from anaerobic digestion have not been emphasized.

Useful Websites

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's AgSTAR Program is a voluntary outreach and educational program that promotes the recovery and use of methane from animal manure.

The Midwest Rural Energy Council is a membership organization whose mission is to support outreach, education and research on rural energy issues for the benefit of farms and other rural energy consumers, rural energy suppliers, farm organizations and agricultural trade associations, electrical equipment and allied industries and government regulatory agencies.

A major goal of the Dairy Environmental Management Program is to develop and deliver sound information and tools to dairy farmers and their advisors engineered and packaged in ways that allow farmers to make sound business decisions in production areas that influence air quality, the climate, and water quality.

The Minnesota Project champions the sustainable production and equitable distribution of energy and food in communities across Minnesota.