New Zealand has over 1000 anaerobic waste stabilisation ponds treating wastewater from farms and industry. Traditional anaerobic ponds were not designed to optimise anaerobic digestion to produce biogas and are therefore uncovered, releasing biogas to the atmosphere, which can cause odour problems and contributes to GHG emissions. The biogas production and treatment performance of an anaerobic piggery pond retrofitted with a perimeter cover working under field conditions was monitored over a 14 month period. The cover design proved successful in capturing biogas, mitigating odour and GHG issues and coping with New Zealand weather conditions. High solids removal rates (73% and 86% for TS and VS respectively) were achieved. An annual average biogas methane production rate of 0.263 m3 CH4/kgVSadded was observed, which is similar to gas production rates of mesophilic farm waste digesters, and indicates that the prolonged hydraulic and solids retention times of covered anaerobic ponds can fully compensate for lower operating temperatures. These results suggest that covered anaerobic ponds treating agricultural wastes in New Zealand have great potential to reduce odour and GHG emissions and recover renewable energy, while producing an easy to handle effluent for land irrigation or further treatment.
Keywords: anaerobic pond, biogas, energy recovery, methane production, WSP