Decision support tool for the construction and seasonal operation of farm-scale anaerobic digestion plants

Optimal plant design and management are critical components for the successful operation of farm-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) plants. However, this often proves challenging due to difficulties in designing and sizing the plant based on specific site conditions. The current investigation aims to address these difficulties by developing a universal decision support tool to assist in the optimal design and management of agriculture-based AD plants, accounting for site-specific practicalities and implications. The tool consists of various mathematical functions, which enable numerous simulations to be created and run. The developed tool was applied to a case study, located in Ireland, to test its usefulness, where the analysis showed the optimal, site-specific, plant design with key assessment indicators. For this case study, the feedstock availability assessment determined that the lignocellulose and non-lignocellulose biomass within a 10 km distance of the site. Based on the local energy demand of the area, the tool modelled an optimal AD plant design, including feedstock storage, digester volume, engine capacity, and digestate storage. The tool applied various technical, economic, and ecological assessment indicators to the plant to gauge its viability. Therefore, demonstrating the tool's usefulness in assisting stakeholders to make informed decisions and reducing costs by optimising plant design and performance.
Publication history: Accepted - 12 April 2023; Published online - 15 April 2023.
Anaerobic digestion, Small-scale, Decision support, Site assessment
O’Connor, S., Ehimen, E., Pillai, S.C., Lyons, G., Johnston, C., Wills, M. and Bartlett, J. (2023) ‘Decision support tool for the construction and seasonal operation of farm-scale anaerobic digestion plants’, Results in Engineering. Elsevier BV. Available at: