2004 - The 2nd Lettinga Award

During the Anaerobic Digestion World Congress in Montreal, Canada (August 30 – September 2) the winning project of the second Lettinga Award was made public. Before doing so, the jury judged about 30 project proposals on quality, innovative character, and applicability in practice. The project of Nidal Mahmoud from Palestine finished second in a very close race with the winning project of Madalena Alves from Portugal.

The project of Madalena Alves deals with a practical problem of Lipids and Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA). Lipids/LCFA are attractive for biogas production due to the high potential methane yield. The conventional process technology, however, does not take full advantage of this potential energy source. Physico-chemical separation processes are currently applied to remove fat before biological treatment. This practice is due to the accepted view that LCFA is toxic for the anaerobic consortia, and to problems associated with the adsorption of LCFA onto the sludge, affecting the granular sludge stability in high rate treatment systems. Madalena Alves and co-workers have performed innovative research that aims at taking advantage of the high capacity of anaerobic sludge to accumulate LCFA by mechanisms of adsorption, entrapment, or precipitation rather than to prevent the accumulation of lipids/LCFA onto the sludge as aimed at by others. The winning project therefore aims at the development, construction and demonstration of a new sequential batch reactor for the mineralization of lipid/LCFA rich wastewater.

The jury was impressed by the quality of the proposal: it is very well written, the output is clearly defined, and the project has a clear identity. The innovative application of a SBR for wastewaters rich in lipids may lead to very interesting results that hopefully contribute to making full advantage of the potential energy yield of these types of wastewaters.

More information on the winning project can be found on the University of Minho website.