Anaerobic digestion and digestate use: accounting of greenhouse gases and global warming contribution

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Anaerobic digestion (AD) of source-separated municipal solid waste (MSW) and use of the digestate is presented from a global warming (GW) point of view by providing ranges of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are useful for calculation of global warming factors (GWFs), i.e. the contribution to GW measured in CO2-equivalents per tonne of wet waste. The GHG accounting was done by distinguishing between direct contributions at the AD facility and indirect upstream or downstream contributions. GHG accounting for a generic AD facility with either biogas utilization at the facility or upgrading of the gas for vehicle fuel resulted in a GWF from —375 (a saving) to 111 (a load) kg CO2-eq. tonne—1 wet waste. In both cases the digestate was used for fertilizer substitution. This large range was a result of the variation found for a number of key parameters: energy substitution by biogas, N2O-emission from digestate in soil, fugitive emission of CH 4, unburned CH4, carbon bound in soil and fertilizer substitution. GWF for a specific type of AD facility was in the range —95 to —4 kg CO2-eq. tonne—1 wet waste. The ranges of uncertainty, especially of fugitive losses of CH4 and carbon sequestration highly influenced the result. In comparison with the few published GWFs for AD, the range of our data was much larger demonstrating the need to use a consistent and robust approach to GHG accounting and simultaneously accept that some key parameters are highly uncertain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management and Research
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)813-824
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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