A comparative assessment of anaerobic digestion power plants as alternative to lagoons for vinasse treatment: Life cycle assessment and exergy analysis

Ernesto L. Barrera, Elena Rosa, Henri Spanjers, Osvaldo Romero, Steven De Meester, Jo Dewulf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The treatment of vinasse in lagoons causes methane emissions during the anaerobic decomposition of the organic matter. The recovery of this methane, to produce renewable energy in anaerobic digestion power plants (ADPPs) replacing fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emission, could bring environmental benefits. The aims of this work were: (1) to compare alternatives of ADPPs available for the treatment of vinasse; and (2) to evaluate the impacts of ADPPs as alternative for lagooning Cuban vinasse; both by means of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and exergy analysis (EA). The LCA and EA showed that the ADPPs improve the environmental profile with respect to the lagooning of vinasse, reducing up to 77% the total score and recovering up to 46% of the exergy extracted from the natural environment during the process, respectively. The highest environmental benefits for the ADPPs were observed when the subprocesses biogas production from raw vinasse, sulfide removal by biooxidation with air oxygen addition and energy generation in spark ignition engines were used. In that case, the treatment of 1072 ton of vinasse (exergy content of 740.6 GJex) can produce 175 GJex as "electricity and heat", 191 GJex as "wastewater for fertirrigation", 21.7 GJex as "digestate", and 0.41 GJex as "sulfur in the filter cake". This way, the produced 1.3 million cubic meters of vinasse (1.34·106 ton/year) reported by the Cuban Ministry of the Cane Sugar Industry can replace 485263 GJex per year as energy and bio-fertilizers, reducing the negative environmental impacts for the studied categories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-471
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume113
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Keywords

  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Biogas
  • Exergy efficiency
  • LCA
  • Power plant
  • Vinasse

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