Monitoring and control of the biogas process based on propionate concentration using online VFA measurement

Kanokwan Boe, J.P. Steyer, Irini Angelidaki

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Simple logic control algorithms were tested for automatic control of a lab-scale CSTR manure digester. Using an online VFA monitoring system, propionate concentration in the reactor was used as parameter for control of the biogas process. The propionate concentration was kept below a threshold of 10 mM by manipulating the feed flow. Other online parameters such as pH, biogas production, total VFA, and other individual VFA were also measured to examine process performance. The experimental results showed that a simple logic control can successfully prevent the reactor from overload, but with fluctuations of the propionate level due to the nature of control approach. The fluctuation of propionate concentration could be reduced, by adding a lower feed flow limit into the control algorithm to prevent undershooting of propionate response. It was found that use of the biogas production as a main control parameter, rather than propionate can give a more stable process, since propionate was very persistent and only responded very slowly to the decrease of the feed flow which lead to high fluctuation of biogas production. Propionate, however, was still an excellent parameter to indicate process stress under gradual overload and thus recommended as an alarm in the control algorithm.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Science and Technology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)661-666
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • propionate
  • simple control
  • volatile fatty acids
  • anaerobic digestion


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