Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Sarina J. Ergas

Co-Major Professor

James R. Mihelcic


Biodigester, Biogas, Manure Treatment, Methane Cooking Fuel, Particulate Matter Indoor Air Pollution


The high incidence of upper respiratory diseases, contamination of waterways due to pathogens and nutrients from human and animal wastes, unsustainable deforestation, gender disparities in burden of disease due to unequal exposure to indoor air pollutants, and carbon black emissions from the burning of solid fuels are interrelated problems in many developing countries. Small scale anaerobic digestion provides a means of alleviating these problems by treating livestock waste onsite to produce biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) in rural areas in developing countries. Fuel can then be used for cooking, lighting, and heating. Methane fuel is an alternative to traditional three-stone fires, improved cook stoves, and liquid petroleum gas. However, there is a lack of information available on design methods for these systems. The goal of this research was to develop a design tool that could be used for anaerobic digester sizing based on livestock waste availability. An Excel spreadsheet model was developed for sizing the bioreactor and the gas container based upon recommended values from a literature review. Needed monitoring parameters for operation of an anaerobic digester in the field were identified and standard methods of analysis were recommended. Sample preservation techniques were detailed. Guidelines for pathogen reduction in thermophilic anaerobic digestion were identified. Further study of pathogen reduction in low temperature reactors currently in use in developing countries was recommended. Three digester designs included in the Excel spreadsheet model were: the polyethylene tubular digester, the floating drum digester, and the fixed dome digester. The design tool may be requested from Dr. Sarina Ergas, sergas(at) An organic loading rate of 1.0 kg VS/(m3*d) was chosen for use in the design tool based upon a review of the literature. A semi-empirical kinetic model was developed for defining the SRT based on the temperature inputted by the user. Three case studies, based upon livestock waste availability in a rural community in the Dominican Republic, were analyzed using the sizing design tool. The case studies were conducted on three scales: one household, six households, and a village of 48 households. The specific biogas production rates were, for Case Studies one through three, respectively, 0.0076, 0.0069, and 0.010 m3 biogas/kg Volatile Solids reduced. Additional future work included: characterization of human feces and guinea pig manure, laboratory and field testing of the Excel spreadsheet design tool, and promotion of anaerobic digesters by development workers, non-governmental organizations, and governments.