WO2012009462A2 - Solid waste digestion system - Google Patents

Solid waste digestion system

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Publication number
WO2012009462A2
WO2012009462A2 PCT/US2011/043895 US2011043895W WO2012009462A2 WO 2012009462 A2 WO2012009462 A2 WO 2012009462A2 US 2011043895 W US2011043895 W US 2011043895W WO 2012009462 A2 WO2012009462 A2 WO 2012009462A2
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WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
digestion
feed
zone
method
vessel
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2011/043895
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2012009462A9 (en )
WO2012009462A3 (en )
Inventor
William Nicholas Hiatt
Mohammed Memon
Jacob J. L. Dickinson
James Dewitt Stein
Gary Ailes
Original Assignee
Ecologico-Logic, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B09DISPOSAL OF SOLID WASTE; RECLAMATION OF CONTAMINED SOIL SOIL
    • B09CRECLAMATION OF CONTAMINATED SOIL
    • B09C1/00Reclamation of contaminated soil
    • B09C1/10Reclamation of contaminated soil microbiologically, biologically or by using enzymes
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B09DISPOSAL OF SOLID WASTE; RECLAMATION OF CONTAMINED SOIL SOIL
    • B09BDISPOSAL OF SOLID WASTE
    • B09B3/00Destroying solid waste or transforming solid waste or contaminated solids into something useful or harmless
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C05FERTILISERS; MANUFACTURE THEREOF
    • C05FORGANIC FERTILISERS NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C05B, C05C, e.g. FERTILISERS FROM WASTE OR REFUSE
    • C05F17/00Preparation of fertilisers characterised by the composting step
    • C05F17/0027Multi-step composting process, (e.g. anaerobic-aerobic)
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C05FERTILISERS; MANUFACTURE THEREOF
    • C05FORGANIC FERTILISERS NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C05B, C05C, e.g. FERTILISERS FROM WASTE OR REFUSE
    • C05F17/00Preparation of fertilisers characterised by the composting step
    • C05F17/02Apparatus therefor
    • C05F17/0258Parts or details of composting apparatus, e.g. floors, covers, doors
    • C05F17/0264Details regulating incoming and outgoing process streams from apparatus
    • C05F17/0276Details regulating incoming and outgoing process streams from apparatus the process stream being a liquid stream, e.g. humidification details
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L1/00Liquid carbonaceous fuels
    • C10L1/02Liquid carbonaceous fuels essentially based on components consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen only
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L5/00Solid fuels
    • C10L5/40Solid fuels essentially based on materials of non-mineral origin
    • C10L5/44Solid fuels essentially based on materials of non-mineral origin on vegetable substances
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12MAPPARATUS FOR ENZYMOLOGY OR MICROBIOLOGY; APPARATUS FOR CULTURING MICROORGANISMS FOR PRODUCING BIOMASS, FOR GROWING CELLS OR FOR OBTAINING FERMENTATION OR METABOLIC PRODUCTS, i.e. BIOREACTORS OR FERMENTERS
    • C12M27/00Means for mixing, agitating or circulating fluids in the vessel
    • C12M27/02Stirrer or mobile mixing elements
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12MAPPARATUS FOR ENZYMOLOGY OR MICROBIOLOGY; APPARATUS FOR CULTURING MICROORGANISMS FOR PRODUCING BIOMASS, FOR GROWING CELLS OR FOR OBTAINING FERMENTATION OR METABOLIC PRODUCTS, i.e. BIOREACTORS OR FERMENTERS
    • C12M29/00Means for introduction, extraction or recirculation of materials, e.g. pumps
    • C12M29/04Filters; Permeable or porous membranes or plates, e.g. dialysis
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12MAPPARATUS FOR ENZYMOLOGY OR MICROBIOLOGY; APPARATUS FOR CULTURING MICROORGANISMS FOR PRODUCING BIOMASS, FOR GROWING CELLS OR FOR OBTAINING FERMENTATION OR METABOLIC PRODUCTS, i.e. BIOREACTORS OR FERMENTERS
    • C12M41/00Means for regulation, monitoring, measurement or control, e.g. flow regulation
    • C12M41/30Means for regulation, monitoring, measurement or control, e.g. flow regulation of concentration
    • C12M41/34Means for regulation, monitoring, measurement or control, e.g. flow regulation of concentration of gas
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12MAPPARATUS FOR ENZYMOLOGY OR MICROBIOLOGY; APPARATUS FOR CULTURING MICROORGANISMS FOR PRODUCING BIOMASS, FOR GROWING CELLS OR FOR OBTAINING FERMENTATION OR METABOLIC PRODUCTS, i.e. BIOREACTORS OR FERMENTERS
    • C12M45/00Means for pre-treatment of biological substances
    • C12M45/02Means for pre-treatment of biological substances by mechanical forces; Stirring; Trituration; Comminuting
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS [GHG] EMISSIONS, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E50/00Technologies for the production of fuel of non-fossil origin
    • Y02E50/10Biofuels
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS [GHG] EMISSIONS, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E50/00Technologies for the production of fuel of non-fossil origin
    • Y02E50/30Fuel from waste
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02PCLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES IN THE PRODUCTION OR PROCESSING OF GOODS
    • Y02P20/00Technologies relating to chemical industry
    • Y02P20/10General improvement of production processes causing greenhouse gases [GHG] emissions
    • Y02P20/14Reagents; Educts; Products
    • Y02P20/141Feedstock
    • Y02P20/145Feedstock the feedstock being materials of biological origin
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02WCLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO WASTEWATER TREATMENT OR WASTE MANAGEMENT
    • Y02W10/00Technologies for wastewater treatment
    • Y02W10/30Wastewater or sewage treatment systems with climate change mitigation effect characterised by the origin of the energy
    • Y02W10/37Wastewater or sewage treatment systems with climate change mitigation effect characterised by the origin of the energy using solar energy
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02WCLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO WASTEWATER TREATMENT OR WASTE MANAGEMENT
    • Y02W30/00Technologies for solid waste management
    • Y02W30/40Bio-organic fraction processing; Production of fertilisers from the organic fraction of waste or refuse
    • Y02W30/43Aerobic fermentation, e.g. composting
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02WCLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO WASTEWATER TREATMENT OR WASTE MANAGEMENT
    • Y02W30/00Technologies for solid waste management
    • Y02W30/40Bio-organic fraction processing; Production of fertilisers from the organic fraction of waste or refuse
    • Y02W30/47Anaerobic fermentation, e.g. methanation combined with capture, recycling or flaring

Abstract

A system for digesting biodigestible feed preferably includes the steps of comminuting the feed, introducing feed, an oxygen containing gas, an accelerant, and bacteria into a digestion zone, the bacteria being suitable for digesting the feed under aerobic, anaerobic, and anoxic conditions. The contents of the digestion zone can be changed from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation, or vice versa, without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone.

Description

SOLID WASTE DIGESTION SYSTEM

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] The present Application claims the benefit of United States Provisional Patent Application No. 61/363,964, filed July 13, 2010, titled "Solid Waste Digestion System," the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

BACKGROUND

[0002] A variety of processes are known that may be suitable for processing solid waste.

See for example 3,142,557, M. MacDuffie; 4,053,394, Fisk; 5,702,499, Timmenga; 6,296,766, Breckenridge; 6,569,332, Ainsworth; 6,733,662, Pollock; 6,869,534, McDowell; 6,942,801,

Nishimura; 7,024,796, Carin; 7,481,940, Clifford; 7,553,410, Chennault; 7556737, Zhang; U.S. Patent Publications 2006/0289356, Burnett; 2008/0314828, Campbell.

[0003] However applicants believe there is no known process that is suitable for both anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic processing of solid, gas and liquid waste, where conditions of the processing can be changed "on the fly". It is desirable to quickly change from anoxic or anaerobic to aerobic, or from aerobic to anaerobic or anoxic, to control the output from the process depending on feed stock and desired output. Thus there is a need for process for treating waste that can quickly switch between anoxic or anaerobic operation to aerobic operation and vice versa. SUMMARY

[0004] The present invention is directed to a system that satisfies this need. The system comprises a digestion vessel, an inlet for introducing biodigestible feed into the digestion vessel, an inlet for introducing a gas into the digestion vessel, and an inlet for introducing bacteria into the digestion vessel for digestion of a biodigestible feed. There is a digested feed outlet for the digested feed. The system includes a control system for changing the contents of the digestion vessel from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion vessel. The system can also change the contents of the digestion vessel from anoxic or anaerobic operation to aerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion vessel. The change in contents can occur in less than 45 minutes, and typically in about 5 to about 30 minutes. The system typically includes a valve for controlling introduction of oxygen containing gas into the digestion vessel through the gas inlet, where the valve is controllable by the control system.

[0005] Preferably there is a soaking vat for soaking the feed prior to introduction of the feed to the digestion vessel.

[0006] Typically the control system is adapted to maintain the contents of the digestion vessel at an elevated temperature of at least 140°F for killing pathogens.

[0007] Depending on the feed, there can be a comminution zone for comminuting the feed prior to introduction into the digestion vessel.

[0008] The product from the digestion vessel can be separated in a separator to produce a predominantly solid phase and a predominantly liquid phase. The liquid phase can be clarified using a clarifier.

[0009] In a method according to the present invention, the biodigestible feed is introduced into a digestion zone. Bacteria suitable for digesting the feed under aerobic, anaerobic and anoxic conditions is also introduced into the digestion zone. Digested feed is then withdrawn from the digestion zone. The contents of the digestion zone can be modified from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation, or vice versa, without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone. For example, to change from aerobic to anaerobic or anoxic operation, the amount of oxygen being introduced into the digestion zone can be reduced or completely eliminated. It is also possible to change back and forth between aerobic and anaerobic or anoxic operation.

[0010] The digestion zone can have a brackish liquid phase with a density of greater than

1, and up to about 1.2, and more typically up to about 1.12. The biodigestible feed can have a brackish liquid portion with a density of about 1.009 to about 1.012.

[0011] The feed can contain sulphur and the sulphur can be trapped in the digestion zone into a solid phase, so that output gas contains substantially no sulphur containing compounds.

[0012] Optionally the feed can be soaked in a soaking zone prior to introduction into the digestion zone. The soaking zone can be maintained a sufficiently elevated temperature for killing pathogens. As needed water can be added to the soaking zone, and optionally bacteria. [0013] An accelerant can be introduced into the digestion zone. The accelerant can be selected from the group consisting of a nitrogen source, a phosphorous source, a potassium source, and a carbon source.

[0014] Preferably the bacteria is at least one organism from the families of Bacillus subtillis, Bacillus sphaericus, Bacillus megatarium, Bacillus licheniformis, Enterobacter sakazakii, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus pasteurii, Bacillus cirroflagellosus and Bacillus pumilus. Preferably there is at least one organism from each of the families.

[0015] A buffer can be introduced into the soaking zone and/or the digesting zone. The buffer can be one or more than one compound selected from the group consisting of CaCC>3, MgC03, MnO, NaOH, and KOH.

[0016] Typically the withdrawn digested feed contains water, and the water can be removed from the digested feed. When a buffer is introduced into the digestion zone, and/or soaking zone, the buffer can contain water removed from the withdrawn digested feed.

[0017] The gas withdrawn from the digestion zone can be a fuel gas. When withdrawn gas contains carbon dioxide, the carbon dioxide can be used for supporting algae growth.

[0018] It is desirable to detect the composition of the withdrawn gas for controlling the digestion process in the digestion zone with the central system. The process in the digestion zone can be controlled by changing at least one of the digestion zone temperature, adding bacteria to the digestion zone, changing the pH in the digestion zone, changing the residence time in the digestion zone, changing the digestion zone pressure, and changing the composition of gas into the digestion zone.

[0019] It is possible to form a cake from the predominantly solid phase, where the cake can be burned as a fuel.

DRAWINGS

[0020] These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with reference to the following description and accompanying drawings where:

[0021] Fig. 1 is a schematic view of a system having features of the present invention; [0022] Fig. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a digester suitable for use in the system of Fig. l ;

[0023] Figs. 3 and 4 schematically show a preferred configuration of paddles for use in a digester where they are trilaterally symmetrical groups of paddles, wherein the paddles are not parallel to a drive shaft used for driving the paddles;

[0024] Figs. 5 and 6 schematically show a paddle configuration where alternating groups of paddles are staggered with respect to one another, wherein proceeding along the drive shaft, each paddle is rotated 60° with respect to the next or proceeding paddle; and

[0025] Fig. 7 schematically shows the direction of paddle inclination with respect to the drive shaft can be reversed in alternating sets of paddles.

DESCRIPTION

[0026] With reference to Fig. 1, a system 10 having features of the present invention utilizes a biodegradable feed 12. Any suitable biodegradable feed 12 can be used such as biomass from farming, wood chips, and garbage. Other feeds 12 that can be used include human, animal and aquatic wastes, human and animal carcasses, fuels, hydrocarbons, some metals in aqueous solution, wood, animal, human and aquatic liquid sewage, plastics, explosives, cleaners, halogen-containing compound, oils, concrete, chemicals, manures, sludge, green waste, municipal solid waste, fertilizers, and organic and inorganic compounds including 1, 2 and 3 ring compounds that need to be degraded and reduced in either mass or toxicity. It is desirable that the feed 12 contains substantially no materials that are not biodegradable such as solid metal, glass, and certain rubbers. It can be determined if a particular feed material is suitably biodegradable for the system 10 by running tests on the material under the conditions of a digestion zone used in the system 10, as described herein.

[0027] The system 10 can be operated either as a batch process, continuous process, or semi batch.

[0028] Feed 12 too large for easy biodigestion can be comminuted in a comminution zone, such as one or more grinders 14, that reduces the particle size to about 1/8 inch in diameter, or less. Preferably the feed is mechanically broken up to facilitate digestion by naturally occurring microorganisms and chemical processes by increasing surface area. While this is ensured by the grinder 14, other components can be used to mechanically and chemically reduce feed particle size throughout the process. Feed of sufficiently small size can bypass the comminution zone such as by being introduced directly into the digestion zone 24 from a container 13 via a line 13 a.

[0029] Comminuted material 15 from the comminution zone is transferred into an optional soaking zone that can be a vat 16. The transfer can be by gravity feed with the grinder 14 discharging downwardly into the soaking vat 16. Pressure feed can also be used. The soaking vat 16 serves as a storage vessel to accommodate changes in feed rate of the feed 12, accumulating input material as it becomes available and discharging it as appropriate to maintain high system performance. In addition, it wets the feed for initiating digestion with any bacteria that may be present in the feed. Preferably the soaking zone is maintained at a temperature higher than ambient, and most preferably at least 140°F, for accelerating digestion and killing pathogens. Preferably the average residence time in the soaking zone is at least 15 minutes, but can be less at elevated temperatures. Typically sufficient water is introduced into the soaking zone so that the water content of the soaking zone is at least 20%, and usually about 50%, by volume. Optionally, some of the solids can be removed from soaking zone 16 as mulch 18.

[0030] Soaked, inoculated and partially digested material from the soaking zone is introduced to an agitated digestion zone such as digestion vessel 24, such as by a pump or gravity feed. A preferred configuration for the digestion vessel 24 is described below.

[0031] Bacteria 20 is introduced into the digestion zone 24 from storage 21. Preferred bacteria is that described in U.S. Patents 6,025,152 and 6,562,585, which are incorporated herein by reference. This bacteria is preferred because it can digest biodegradable feed under aerobic, anoxic, and anaerobic conditions, allowing the system 10 to produce a variety of products, over a wide range of pHs, from about 2.5 to about 11.5. Preferably, the pH is about 5 to about 11.5. Typically the bacteria is introduced in an amount to optimize the digestion process wherein essentially all of the biodigestible feed is digested, at the fastest digestion rate possible to maximize the amount of the material that is processed through the system 10. The digestion can be initiated with bacteria in the amount of about 1/5 gram per gallon of soaking zone where the initiation concentration is about 5 x 109 organisms per gram. Individual organisms may be utilized or a combination of two or more or all organisms listed in aforementioned patent may be employed for a greater synergistic effect. [0032] A preferred bacteria composition is mixture A as described in the aforementioned patent No. 6,025,152. The bacterial composition, Mixture A, comprises bacteria from the following families: Bacillus subtillis, Bacillus sphaericus, Bacillus megatarium, Bacillus licheniformis, Enterobacter sakazakii, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus pasteurii, Bacillus cirroflagellosus and Bacillus pumilus. The bacterial composition of Mixture A is present in the bacteria introduced into the digestion zone 24 in an amount of from about 45 weight percent to about 100% total composition of the bacteria, and preferably, from about 50 weight percent to about 90 weight percent, and most preferably from about 60 weight percent to about 70 weight percent of the total composition.

[0033] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus subtillis

(ATCC#465, 14617, 14618) are present in the composition in an amount of from about 1 weight percent to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0034] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus sphaericus

(ATCC#4525, 10208, 12123, 12300) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0035] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus megatarium

(ATCC#6458,6459,8245, 10778) are present in an amount of from about 1 weight percent to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0036] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus licheniformis

(ATCC#6634,8480,21416) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0037] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Enterobacter sakazakii

(ATCC#12868,29004) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A. [0038] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus coagulans

(ATCC#7050,15949, 35670) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0039] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus cereus

(ATCC#6464,9139, 10702, 12480) are present in the composition of the present invention from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0040] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus pasteurii

(ATCC#6452645311859) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0041] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus cirroflagellosus

(ATCC#1441 1) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0042] The solid spores from the bacterial family of Bacillus pumilus

(ATCC#7061, 14884) are present in an amount of from about 1 part to about 20 weight percent, preferably about 6 weight percent to about 15 weight percent, and most preferably about 10 weight percent of the total bacterial composition comprising Mixture A.

[0043] Optionally bacteria 20 can be introduced into the soaking zone 16, which optionally can be aerated or non aerated depending upon the desired environmental process.

[0044] Preferably the temperature in the digestion zone 24 is at least 140°F, the recommended minimum temperature by the Environmental Protection Agency for killing pathogens. The digestion zone can be heated, not only to kill pathogens, but also to accelerate the action of the beneficial microorganisms. To accomplish this, the system can include heaters incorporated in the digestion zone 24, for example electrical heating elements attached to the outside of the inner vessel wall. Heaters can also be attached to the soaking vat 16 and other parts of the system. Optionally, tube heaters can be placed inside the digesting vat 24with hot liquid circulating through the tubes. Excess heat from motors can be captured and utilized for this process, or heat can be generated by a flash heater fueled by gas or liquid fuel generated by the anoxic or anaerobic process. Liquid fuel, natural gas, or solar heating can also be employed.

[0045] A pH buffering system 25 preferably buffers the pH within the system 10. It can do this by active means (e.g. chemical dosing, dictated by the control system in response to sensor inputs) or by passive means (e.g. passing circulating liquid through a bed of buffering material). It can be in line with fluid circulating between system components, or it can be configured in a loop with a single system component. The pH in the digestion zone can be controlled by adding a buffer via line 27 from the buffering system 25. Typical buffers include, but are not limited to, CaC03, MgC03, MnO, NaOH, and KOH. A commercial buffer

(containing calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate)is available from Hiatt Distributers Limited (www.hdltd.com) under the mark PH Adjustment Roch.

[0046] The digestion zone can be operated aerobically, by introducing an oxygen containing gas, such as air, oxygen, or air enriched with oxygen. Oxygen can be provided by an oxygen generating zone 29 and introduced into the digestion vessel 24 through a line 29a. The line 29a used for introducing oxygen into the digestion vessel can have a stub line (not shown) for introducing a gas such as oxygen from a bottle. The line 29a can be used for introducing other gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen can be obtained form a nitrogen generator, nitrogen bottle, or nitrogen gas generated from either the process,

[0047] The line 29a and the stub line can be provided with conventional shut off valves , such as valves 29b for switching from anaerobic or anoxic to aerobic operating conditions in the digestion zone, and vice versa, under a control system 29c. The control system 29c can be electrical circuits, digital signal processors, computers and microcontroller, and typically is a PID (proportional internal derivative) controllers. The system 10 can be operated anaerobically by not introducing any oxygen, since any oxygen present is consumed by the bacteria.

[0048] The change over from anaerobic or anoxic, to aerobic or vice versa, can occur in less than about 45 minutes, and preferably takes place in about 5 to about 30 minutes, merely by changing the gas flow into the digestion zone 24 under control of the control system 29c.

Generally the preferred bacteria can break down any biodegradable material in about 1 to about 45 minutes. Thus an advantage of the system 10 using the preferred bacteria is the ability to quickly change over from aerobic or anoxic to anaerobic operation and vice versa. For example to switch from aerobic to anaerobic, the digestion zone can be flooded with a non-oxygen containing gas such as nitrogen. If the system 10 is operating anaerobically, it can be switched over to an aerobic process by introducing an oxygen containing gas.

[0049] The pressure in the digestion zone is typically atmospheric, but can be higher for example, up to about 10 atmospheres. Higher pressure can increase the digestion rate. However, equipment designed for operation at higher pressures costs more than otherwise similar equipment designed for operation at lower pressures. Pressure in the digestion zone can also be maintained at less than atmospheric pressure, for example, as in a negative pressure system designed for safe handling of toxic materials.

[0050] Optionally an accelerant can be introduced to the soaking zone 16 and/or the digestion zone 24. A preferred accelerant contains a nitrogen source such as ammonia, a phosphorus source such as a phosphate, a potassium source such as potash, and a carbon source such as sugar. The accelerant is compounded to compensate for deficiencies in the feed. One such accelerant is a mixture of ammonium phosphate, potash, and sugar, which is available under the mark Super-Duper from Hiatt Distributors, Limited (www.HDLTD.com). The amount of each ingredient depends on what the feed source lacks,

[0051] The vessels used in the system can be constructed with abrasive or textured interior surfaces for further comminution of the feed beyond that provided by the grinder 14. For example, an abrasive lining can be fabricated by attaching a perforated sheet of material to the inside of the vessel 24, or by attaching it to raised ribs separating it from the inside of the digestion vessel 24. An abrasive lining can be fabricated by molding, pressing, or otherwise shaping the inside of the digestion vessel 24. An abrasive lining can be fabricated by attaching molded, pressed, or otherwise shaped pieces of material to the inside of the digestion vessel 24, for example, metallic, ceramic composite or glass tiles molded and fired with a toothed or abrasive surface or any combination of these materials.

[0052] The digested feed, referred to herein as sludge 30, flows from the digestion zone

24 into a separation zone 31, also referred to as a settler or clarifier. Transfer can be affected with an auger screw, having an auger channel, or appropriate pump, or by gravity feed. The settler 31 separates the sludge 30 into a predominantly solid phase 32 and a predominantly liquid phase 34. The auger channel need not be parallel to the ground, but can slant downwardly toward or connect vertically with an output opening of the digestion vessel 24, to assist in removal of processed material, especially in the event of power failure or when it becomes necessary to empty the digestion vessel 24 following a batch cycle or for any other reason. The entire digestion vessel 24 (and other, attached components as necessary) can be permanently tilted from the horizontal axis for the same purpose.

[0053] The digestion vessel 24 and discharge auger channel (and other, attached components as necessary) can be constructed such that a supporting framework is hinged at the output opening end of the digestion vessel 24, and not attached at the other end, so that the whole assembly can be tilted using e.g. permanently attached hydraulic cylinders or an overhead crane. Alternately, the supporting framework can be constructed with no attachment to the floor or other structures, and instead constrained horizontally by raised projections, e.g. blocks or bollards, or by locking mechanisms, such as latches or dogs, so that it can be tilted by e.g.

hydraulic cylinders or an overhead crane. This feature can be occasionally used in removing processed material, as in a power failure. It can be for regular use, for example for emptying a digestion vessel, particularly during batch operations.

[0054] The solid phase 32 from the settler 31 is optionally dried in a drying zone 36 such as by heat, mechanical drying such as a press, gravity separation, and/or filtration separation. Heat can be provided by solar heat, hydrocarbon-based heaters, electric heaters, and/or waste heat generated by the system. The final product is a cake 38, which can serve as a fertilizer or source of trace elements, which makes any non legume plants act as legumes and increases crop and flower yields. It can be bagged in a bagger 40 yielding bagged product 40a. Preferably the moisture content of the cake 38 is about 5%.

[0055] Liquid output 34a from the drying zone 36 can be packaged and sold as a liquid fertilizer to give non legume plants the nitrogen-fixing capability of legumes, and to enhance the existing nitrogen-fixing capability of legumes, and increases crop and flower yields. Some of the liquid output 34a from the drying zone 36 can be sent via a recycle line 42 to the separation zone 31. A liquid packaging system 41 can weigh or volumetrically measure and package liquid byproduct into bottles, buckets, or other small or bulk packages 41a, for transport and use or sale.

[0056] Liquid output 34 from the separation zone 31 has many applications in the system 10. For example it can be recycled via line 44 for use in the buffering system 25. [0057] The bulk of the output water 34 can be passed from the spin filter zone 50 for further clarification or processing, such as in a spin filter zone 50. The output water 51 can be used, because it contains nutrients, for growing algae in an algae cultivation zone 52 for use in a fuel plant 54 which can convert the algae to biofuel, Omega 3, Omega 6, feed stock for humans, aquatic life and animals and medicines compounds 56. The output water can also be used in hydroponics to raise aquatic life and plants. The water can be processed further to purify it, for example to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard for aquatic use or the standard for drinking water for humans.

[0058] Water 44 enters the buffering system 25 where pH adjusting agents such as calcium or other type of buffers are provided. Aqueous buffer passes from the buffering system 25 via line 27 to the digestion zone 24 as required.

[0059] Exhaust gas 62 from the digestion zone optionally can be filtered by a carbon or other filter 64 and then passed to a sensing system 66 for detecting the composition of the exhaust gas 62, such as the oxygen content, nitrogen content, methane content, hydrogen sulfate content, sulphur dioxide content, water content, and carbon content, for controlling the digestion process and making fuels via the control system 29c. The amount of carbon dioxide generated is an indication of the efficiency of the digestion process. The digestion process is controlled by control methods such as changing the temperature in the digestion zone, adding bacteria, changing pH, changing digestion zone residence time, changing digestion zone pressure, and/or changing the composition of the gas introduced to the digestion zone.

[0060] The exhaust gas 62 under anoxic or anaerobic conditions is a fuel gas, containing high concentrations of methane. Thus under anoxic or anaerobic conditions, the output of the system 10 can be fuel gas, predominantly methane, hydrogen sulfate, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen, effluent cake, and microorganisms. Under aerobic conditions, the output can be cake, effluent, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water, and microorganisms for fertilizer, or when dehydrated, as a fuel source. The cake and effluent can contain microorganisms, and can be used for fertilizer. When dehydrated, the cake can be used as a fuel source. The methane can be separated using membranes or cryogenically, and used or sold as fuel. Any hydrogen sulfate in the fuel gas can be used as feedstock for other processes (e.g. sulfuric acid production), or sold. Any sulfur dioxide in the fuel gas can be used as feedstock for other processes, or liquefied and sold.

Nitrogen in the fuel gas can be used as feedstock for other processes, liquefied and sold. [0061] Carbon dioxide produced can be captured for sale, sequestration, or use as a feedstock in other processes. Such processes include dry cleaning and cleaning parts. Carbon dioxide can also support algae growth.

[0062] An advantage of the preferred bacteria is that it retains sulfur and utilizes sulfur in its respiration process. Some liquid metabolic waste is converted into sulfuric acid and is contained in the effluent. This sulfur-laden water enhances the acceptance of the other compounds for plant or algae growth, such as phosphate, potash, or any other type of growth- enhancing compound. As a result, the effluent gas contains substantially none, if any, sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric dioxide, and sulfuric acid.

[0063] When the digester is operating aerobically, the sulfur compounds are eliminated in the liquid metabolic waste of the bacteria as discussed in the previous paragraph. The primary gases generated are carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor.

[0064] When the digester is operating anoxically or anaerobically, the sulfur is absorbed into the liquid effluent in the form of either sulfite or sulfate compounds, such as, but not limited to, calcium sulfate or ammonium sulfate. The primary gases generated are carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide.

[0065] With reference to Fig. 2, there is shown the preferred digestion vessel 24 for use as the digestion zone. The vessel 24 is generally cylindrical in shape with its longitudinal axis parallel to the ground. The digestion vessel 24 comprises an outer wall 104 and has an inlet 105 for the output 21 from the soaking zone 16 to be decomposed and acted on by microorganisms, and an outlet 106 for discharge of decomposed detoxified material. The inlet 105 and outlet 106 are preferably at opposite ends of the vessel 24 to maximize residence time in the vessel 24. The inlet 105 is at or near the top of the vessel 24 so that material can be added to the vessel using gravity, pump, or screw feed with no loss of previously added material. The outlet 106 is generally near the bottom of the vessel 24 so that processed material can be removed using gravity, pump, or screw feed flow. Material output from the digestion vessel 24 can be driven passively by gravity, for example by adjusting a valve at the vessel's output 106. Material can be removed by active mechanical means, for example an auger placed in a channel or bilge below the vessel volume swept by paddle rotation, and open to that volume, and rotating to move processed material longitudinally to e.g. a pipe or valve assembly. [0066] It is desirable that the material in the vessel 24 be agitated. Any known agitation means to agitate contents of a vessel, including introduction of gas, ribbon type agitators, paddles, pumping, recirculation, vibrators, and the like can be used. With reference to Fig. 2, preferably paddles are used, with a rotating shaft 108 passing length wise through the vessel 24. The shaft 108 is supported in its substantially horizontal position by bearings 110a and 110b. The shaft 108 passes through seals 114a and 114b which prevent leakage of the contents of the vessel 24. The shaft 108 is driven by a motor 116. The paddle drive shaft 108 can be oriented vertically (in a "milkshake mixer" or "paint stirrer" configuration), as opposed to the horizontal orientation of Fig. 2. The paddle drive shaft 108 can in fact be oriented at any angle with respect to the horizontal.

[0067] A plurality of paddles 118, each having a blade 119 and a supporting rod 120, is secured to the shaft 108 to agitate the contents of the vessel 24. Each paddle 118 typically is attached to the shaft 108 by its supporting rod 120, which has a longitudinal axis substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the shaft 108. Preferably each paddle 118 is skewed relative to its supporting rod 120, wherein from a top view, some are skewed clockwise and others are skewed counterclockwise to obtain adequate agitation. Each paddle can be rotated from 30 to 60 degrees with respect to the next or proceeding paddle, and preferably by about 60 degrees.

[0068] Due to the difficulty of supporting the long central shaft 108 partial-length shafts supported at both ends inside the vessel, and driven by e.g. a shaft entering the vessel perpendicularly, with gears, can be used; or propellers or other rotating ends on shafts entering the reaction vessel at an angle (like the propeller shaft passing through the hull of a boat or ship).

[0069] The digestion vessel 24 need not be cylindrical so that the rotating paddles can completely sweep the digestion vessel's internal volume, to agitate all input material and to prevent settling. The digestion vessel is preferably a solid of revolution, with an internal diameter at any given point somewhat greater than the diameter swept by the corresponding paddles. The vessel can be much larger than the volume swept by paddles, and need not be a solid of revolution. The vessel and paddles or other agitators can be configured such that the flow of material in the vessel agitates all of the vessel's contents, for example as driven by a recirculating pump, or by introduction of gas. The vessel can be configured to allow material to settle in some areas, for example to provide a substrate for large and complex communities of microorganisms. The digestion vessel can be constructed in sections, so that in the event of a leak in one section, that section (housing) can be removed and replaced without replacing the entire vessel. The digestion vessel can also be constructed to be expandable to enable the processing of a larger volume of material. The digestion vessel can be constructed from metal, ceramic, plastics, or composites.

[0070] The paddles 118 can be permanently fixed to the shaft 108, for example welded, cast as a unit, or attached with an adhesive. The paddles 118 can be detachable, for example threaded onto the shaft or attached to collars mounted on the shaft by means of bolts or other threaded fasteners.

[0071] The shaft 108 need not have a circular cross-section. For example, it can have a hexagonal or square cross section inside the vessel, changing to a circular cross section where it passes through the seals 114 and bearings 110. The system can be operated such that material is not allowed to reach the level of the shaft 108, in which case the seals 114 are not necessary.

[0072] If the shaft 108 does not have a circular cross-section, collars can be fixed with respect to the shaft 108 by fitting the shaft's cross-section. If the shaft has a circular cross- section, collars can be fixed using keys, a shear pin press fitting, shrink fitting, adhesive, welding, or other methods. This pin or key can be made of a softer or weaker material, such that it will shear off when the paddle encounters excessive torque, preventing or reducing damage.

[0073] Regardless of shaft cross section, a collar can be assembled of two concentric pieces, similarly joined by a shear pin or key, for the same purpose.

[0074] One or more paddles can be attached to the shaft or to a collar at any point along the shaft. For example, a single collar can support one paddle; two paddles, 180 degrees opposed, or asymmetrically arranged; three paddles, 120 degrees opposed, or asymmetrically arranged; and so on.

[0075] There can be fewer paddle location points than the three shown in Fig. 2, or more.

The vessel can include no paddles or shaft.

[0076] Paddles can be single pieces, or composed of arms and blades. In the latter case, the blade can extend down the arm all the way to the shaft or collar, past the end of the arm, or any subset. [0077] The paddle blades 119 can be flat, curved about one or more axes, or formed in irregular shapes. They can be bent, for example in a dihedral angle. They can be solid, or they can have holes through them.

[0078] The blades 119 and rods 120 can be made of the same material, or of different materials. The blades 119 and rods 120 can be fabricated monolithically of the same material (e.g. by casting, forging, or machining from solid stock) or built up (e.g. by welding, gluing, or by using rivets or threaded fasteners).

[0079] The paddles 118 preferably span the length of the reaction vessel as straight segments or helical segments (as in the paddlewheel of a steamboat, or the blades of a reel lawn mower, respectively).

[0080] The paddles 118 can counter-rotate, driven by different shafts (i.e. entering the vessel from opposite ends, or concentric).

[0081] The paddles 118 can move material longitudinally with respect to the drive shafts, i.e. like propellers. This can enforce material movement inside a very long reaction vessel, or assist in aeration and input material breakdown within a smaller vessel.

[0082] The paddles 118 can be complemented by projections fixed to the interior wall of the reaction vessel 24. In the case of a rotating reaction vessel, these fixed projections can replace paddles fixed to a central shaft.

[0083] With reference to Figs. 3 and 4, preferably the paddles 118 are in trilaterally symmetrical groups of paddles, where the paddles are not parallel to the drive shaft 108 used for driving the paddles. The paddle rods 120 are secured to the drive shaft 108 by a pressed collar 121. As shown by Fig. 4, adjacent sets of three paddles are staggered with their long axis separated by 60 degrees, and have alternating inclination relative to the drive shaft of plus or minus 30 degrees.

[0084] With reference to Figs. 5 and 6, a paddle configuration has alternating groups of paddles 118 staggered with respect to one another, wherein proceeding along the drive shaft, each paddle is rotated 30 degrees relative to the drive shaft, and 60 degrees with respect to the next or proceeding paddle. The relative rotation between paddle sets can be 30 to 90 degrees. For clarity, in Fig. 5 the 60 degree rotation about the drive shaft between paddle sets is not shown. Each set of paddles reversed the previous state of paddle's inclination with respect to the drive shaft.

[0085] Fig. 7 schematically shows the direction of paddle inclination with respect to the drive shaft can be reversed in alternating sets of paddles. Each set of paddles is rotated 60 degrees with respect to the preceding set of paddles.

[0086] Material can also be agitated by other agitation means composed of multiple attached parts, moving or rotating with respect to one another: for example, chains, or chains with paddles attached to them.

[0087] Rather than a stationary reaction vessel 24 with rotating paddles inside, the system can employ a rotating reaction vessel with either fixed or counter-rotating paddles.

[0088] The system can employ a rapidly rotating reaction vessel divided into concentric chambers by screens, filters, or other porous media, to centrifugally separate processed material into liquid and solid components (the "spin dry" configuration).

[0089] The vessel 24, as well as any other component of the system 10, can be made of any corrosion-resistance material, such as, but not limited to stainless steel. Alternatively, the vessel 24 can be coated with a corrosion-resistant material, or made of a laminated or layered material with a corrosion-resistant layer on the inside. The material used for the body or inner coating or layer of the vessel 24, as well as for the soaking vat 16, needs to be non-toxic to the microorganisms. Useful materials and combinations of material include, but are not limited to, titanium, stainless steel, structural plastics, composite material such as carbon fiber and epoxy composites, ceramic, glass, and ceramic plates, supported by stainless steel, plastic or composite materials. Materials desirable include ceramics, KevlarxM-fiberglass combination, and a Teflon™ coating

[0090] Preferably the digestion vessel 24 has a mesh 120a at least over the outlet 106, and preferably over the surface of the bottom half of the vessel or the sides of the vessel 24. The purpose of the screen 120a is to be certain the material in the vessel 24 is adequately digested before discharge. Typically the screen has a mesh size of about 1 to about 25 mm, and more preferably between about 3 and about 10 mm. [0091] The digestion vessel 24 can be fabricated without a mesh screen 120a at least over the outlet 106, allowing material 24 to be discharged after little or no processing, for use as mulch.

[0092] Residence time of input material in the digestion vessel 24 at a particular temperature may define adequate digestion; for example, when a batch process is managed to ensure pathogen destruction. In such cases, the digestion vessel 24 may not contain a mesh screen 120a as described above.

[0093] Other means may be used to control the particle size distribution and other characteristics of digested feed 30. For example, digested feed 30 can be emptied from the digestion vessel 24 and poured over a stationary, oscillating, or vibrating mesh screen, through a rotating drum screen or trommel screen, or into another, additional filtering or separation device having a mesh size of about 1 to about 25 mm, and more preferably between about 3 and about 10 mm, or filtering capability equivalent to a mesh screen with mesh size of these dimensions. Larger pieces of material segregated in this manner can be returned to the comminution zone for re-introduction to the system such as to the vat 16, for additional soaking and optionally for recirculation through a shredder pump, or other processing; or to the digestion vessel 24. The segregated material may also be output for use as mulch, or discarded. The segregated material may be processed in ways intended to remove non-digestible or insufficiently digestible materials, for example by using a cyclonic filter to separate a denser fraction, with the non- digestible or insufficiently digestible fraction removed, and the rest of the material returned to the system in any of the ways described above, or output for use as mulch.

[0094] The digestion zone contents can be aerated by forcing air through stationary or moving nozzles or lances anywhere within the material volume. Vigorous oxygenation in this manner can also supplement or substitute for the action of paddles in mixing reaction vessel contents. This can also be accomplished by forcing air from the bottom or the sides, or by blowing it straight down. In paddle configurations, air can be forced through channels inside paddles.

[0095] Forced ambient air can be enriched or entirely displaced by other gases (e.g. oxygen, nitrogen) or mixed gases, as appropriate, to improve system performance during aerobic, anaerobic, or anoxic operation. [0096] Heat can be introduced to the digestion zone by preheating forced air used to oxygenate and agitate reaction vessel contents.

[0097] A heating system can incorporate heat exchangers for collecting waste heat from various components, e.g. the paddle drive motor, and heat friction from the moving parts. The heating system can include heat exchangers for absorbing heat from outputs (e.g. gaseous, liquid, and solid output) and returning it to the system. The heating system can include heat exchangers for pre -heating input air.

[0098] The heating system can include components including, but not limited to, heat exchangers for absorbing heat from solar collectors, a hot house, or a cogeneration system; heat pumps to obtain heat from the surroundings; and heat exchangers to collect waste heat from a hydraulic system or electric motors.

[0099] A single system can incorporate multiple reaction vessels 24 operating in parallel.

For example, economical transportation might constrain an individual reaction vessel to a size inadequate for processing a site's material throughput. In this case, the system can be tailored to site requirements by employing multiple reaction vessels.

[00100] Multiple reaction vessels operating in parallel can also be used to increase a system' s robustness and reduce overall system downtime. In a system employing multiple reaction vessels operating in parallel, an individual reaction vessel can be removed from service without halting operations altogether.

[00101] A single system can incorporate multiple reaction vessels operating in series. For example, processing particular types of material, or meeting local standards, might require series operation in order to guarantee a given residence time in this part of processing.

[0100] Multiple digestion vessels 24 operating in parallel and provided with bypasses can also be used to increase a system's robustness and reduce overall system downtime. In a system employing multiple digestion vessels operating in series, with bypasses, an individual reaction vessel can be removed from service without halting operations altogether.

[0101] Removing the end caps of the vessel 24 allows the vessel to be expanded to whatever capacity the available space allows. The main body and ends can be split into sections which allows only certain parts of the vessel to be repaired. Such splitting can also enable the components to be easily stacked together for easier transportation and assembly. [0102] An advantage of the present invention is that the salinity of the input biomass is not limited to fresh water, but can be brackish or have a high density when used with the preferred bacteria. The feed 12 can have a salt content wherein the liquid portion has a density as high as 1.2. Thus the system can be used with feeds having a liquid portion with a density of about 1.009 to about 1.012.

[0103] Optionally, the digestion vessel 24 for the digestion zone can include an additional opening for introduction of microorganisms, in solid, granular form, or in aqueous solution. Microorganisms can be added to ensure that the population within the vessel and other parts of the overall system is adequate. Addition of microorganism is done when starting the system, and during routine operation. Microorganisms can be added manually, or by a microorganism dosing subsystem.

[0104] Optionally, the digestion vessel 24 can include a manhole or hatch opening, or a larger clamshell opening, for inspection, maintenance, or other human access.

[0105] For the control system, a microorganism dosing subsystem can be autonomous, responding to inputs from its own dedicated sensors, independent of other components and subsystems; or it can be controlled by a central automated control system. The microorganism dosing subsystem can add microorganisms more or less continuously; at scheduled intervals; or on an ad hoc basis, as determined by operator procedures, by sensor inputs, or by an automated control system processing sensor inputs. The microorganism dosing system can also add microorganisms using a combination of these approaches. For example, an automated control system can override a regular maintenance microorganism dosing schedule and accelerate microorganism dosing in response to inputs indicating a reduced microorganism population.

[0106] Microorganisms can also be added at other locations in the system, manually or automatically, on a regular schedule or in response to changing process conditions.

[0107] Optionally, the vessel can include more than one inlet opening for introducing any organic or inorganic biodigestible feed in solid, paste, granular form, or in aqueous solution. Feed can be added using the opening for microorganism dosing. Feed can be added to ensure rapid growth of the population of microorganisms, or to maintain the population in the absence of adequate input material. This can be done when starting the system, and during routine operation. Feed can be added manually, by a dedicated feed dosing subsystem, or by the microorganism dosing subsystem described above. The feed dosing subsystem can be autonomous, responding to inputs from its own dedicated sensors, independent of other components and subsystems; or it can be controlled by a central automated control system.

[0108] The feed dosing subsystem can add feed more or less continuously; at scheduled intervals; or on an ad hoc basis, as determined by operator procedures, by sensor inputs, or by an automated control system processing sensor inputs. The feed dosing system can also add feed using a combination of these approaches. For example, an automated control system can override a regular maintenance feed dosing schedule and accelerate feed dosing in response to inputs indicating a reduced microorganism population.

[0109] Preferably the feed is mechanically broken up to facilitate digestion by microorganisms, by increasing surface area. While this is ensured by the grinder 14, other components can continue to mechanically reduce feed particle size throughout the process. The vessel can be constructed with abrasive or textured interior surfaces for this purpose.

[0110] For example, an abrasive lining can be fabricated by attaching a perforated sheet of material to the inside of the vessel 24, or by attaching it to raised ribs separating it from the inside of the digestion vessel. An abrasive lining can be fabricated by molding, pressing, or otherwise shaping the inside of the digestion vessel 24. An abrasive lining can be fabricated by attaching molded, pressed, or otherwise shaped pieces of material to the inside of the digestion vessel: for example, but not limited to metallic, ceramic or glass tiles molded and fired with a toothed or abrasive surface.

[0111] The system 10 can include a flash water heater for preheating water introduced to the system during start-up, solar heat or a standard water heater.

[0112] The digestion vessel 24 and other components (e.g. the soaking vat, clarifier, pipelines) can be insulated in order to maintain temperatures favorable to the microorganisms used, while minimizing energy consumption.

[0113] The digestion vessel 24 and other system components can be surrounded by jackets or systems of tubing through which heated air, water, or other fluids are forced, in order to maintain favorable internal temperatures.

[0114] Various system components can be driven by independent motors, or by a single motor and a system of gears, chains, belts, shafts, etc. [0115] The system 10 can include a water filtration subsystem capable of producing potable water from clarified output 34. A water filtration subsystem output can be added to drinking water or irrigation systems, injected into aquifers or bottled. The water filtration system can incorporate a spin filter, a 3-4 step down filter, a carbon filter, an ultraviolet radiation or ozone, a mixed bed filter and reverse osmosis.

[0116] Optionally, the heating system can include components including but not limited to heat exchangers for absorbing heat from solar collectors, a hot house, or a cogeneration system; heat pumps to obtain heat from the surroundings; and heat exchangers to collect waste heat from a hydraulic system or electric motors.

[0117] Optionally, the system 10 can include additional vessels or longer pipelines for longer material residence time in a controlled environment.

[0118] Optionally the system 10 can include sensors linked to the control system 29c, including but not limited to sensors for level of mixture in the digestion vessel 24, soaking vat 16, or in other system components; ratio of solids to water, or moisture content; for temperature; for pH; for feed compound composition; for composition of gaseous output, or gases within the digestion vessel 24 or other system components; for power consumption; for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) or correlates. Sensors may be located as appropriate, on or in the digestion vessel 24, the soaking vat 16, the comminution zone, and/or the separation zone.

[0119] Optionally the soaking vat 16 can include an opening or system of openings and valves which are automatically opened for input and automatically shut when the proper mixture or quantity of input is achieved.

[0120] Although the present invention has been described in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred versions thereof, other versions are possible. For example the system 10 can be mobile, e.g. for use in demonstrations, on-site waste processing, and soil remediation, or optionally it can be sessile. Also, bacteria can be added to the soaking zone.

Therefore, the spirit and scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the preferred versions contained herein.

[0121] The reader's attention is directed to all papers and documents which are filed concurrently with his specification and which are open to public inspection with this specification, and the contents of all such papers and documents are incorporated herein by reference.

[0122] All the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract, and drawings) may be replaced by alternative features serving the same, equivalent or similar purpose, unless expressly stated otherwise. Thus, unless expressly stated otherwise, each feature disclosed is one example only of a generic series of equivalent or similar features.

[0123] Any element in a claim that does not explicitly state "means for" performing a specified function, or "step for" performing a specific function, is not to be interpreted as a "means" or "step" clause as specified in 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¾ 6. In particular, the use of "step of in the claims herein is not intended to invoke the provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¾ 6.

Claims

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. A system for digesting biodigestible feed comprising:
a) a digestion vessel;
b) an inlet for introducing biodigestible feed into the digestion vessel;
c) an inlet for introducing a gas into the digestion vessel;
d) an inlet for introducing bacteria to the digestion vessel for digestion of the biodigestible feed;
e) a digested feed outlet for digested feed; and
f) a control system for changing the contents of the digestion vessel from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion vessel.
2. A system for digesting biodigestible feed comprising:
a) a digestion vessel;
b) an inlet for introducing biodigestible feed into the digestion vessel;
c) an inlet for introducing gas into the digestion vessel;
d) an inlet for introducing bacteria to the digestion vessel for digestion of the biodigestible feed;
e) a digested feed outlet for digested feed; and
f) a control system for changing the contents of the digestion vessel from either anoxic or anaerobic operation to aerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion vessel.
3. The system of claim 1 comprising an agitator for agitating the contents of the digestion vessel.
4. The system of claim 1 wherein the control system changes the contents of the digestion vessel from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation in less than about 45 minutes.
5. The system of claim 4 wherein the control system changes the contents of the digestion vessel from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation in about 5 to about 30 minutes.
6. The system of claim 1 comprising a valve for controlling introduction of oxygen containing gas into the digestion vessel through the gas inlet, the valve being controllable by the control system.
7. The system of claim 1 comprising a gas outlet from the digestion vessel.
8. The system of claim 7 comprising a filter for exhaust gas passing from the digestion vessel through the exhaust gas outlet.
9. The system of claim 1 comprising a soaking vat for soaking the feed prior to introduction of the feed into the digestion vessel.
10. The system of claim 1 wherein the control system is adapted to maintain the contents of the digestion vessel at an elevated temperature of at least 140°F for killing pathogens.
11. The system of claim 1 comprising a comminution zone for comminuting the feed prior to introduction into the digestion vessel.
12. The system of claim 1 comprising a separator for separating digested feed from the digestion zone into a predominantly solid phase and a predominantly liquid phase.
13. The system of claim 12 comprising a clarifier for the liquid phase from the separator.
14. A method for digesting biodigestible feed comprising:
a) introducing the biodigestible feed, an oxygen containing gas, and bacteria into a digestion zone, the bacteria being suitable for digesting the feed under aerobic, anaerobic, and anoxic conditions; b) modifying the contents of the digestion zone from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone; and
c) withdrawing digested feed from the digestion zone.
15. A method for digesting biodigestible feed comprising:
a) introducing the biodigestible feed, a gas, and bacteria into a digestion zone, the bacteria being suitable for digesting the feed under aerobic, anaerobic, and anoxic conditions; b) modifying the contents of the digestion zone from either anoxic or anaerobic operation to aerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone; and
c) withdrawing digested feed from the digestion zone.
16. The method of claim 14 wherein the step of modifying comprises reducing the amount of oxygen being introduced into the digestion zone.
17. The method of claim 14 wherein the step of modifying comprises stopping introduction of oxygen into the digestion zone.
18. The method of claim 14 wherein after step (b), modifying the contents of the digestion zone back to aerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone.
19. The method of claim 14, wherein after step (b), increasing the amount of oxygen being introduced into the digestion zone to revert to aerobic conditions.
20. The method of claim 14 wherein steps a) and c) are continuous.
21. The method of claim 14 wherein the digestion zone has a liquid phase that is brackish with a density of greater than about 1 and up to about 1.20.
22. The method of claim 14 wherein the feed contains sulfur, and the method includes the step of withdrawing a gas from the digestion zone, the gas containing substantially no sulfur containing compounds.
23. The method of claim 14 wherein the step of modifying comprises changing from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation in less than about 45 minutes.
24. The method of claim 23 wherein the step of modifying comprises changing from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation in about 5 to about 30 minutes
25. The method of claim 14 comprising comminuting the feed before introducing the feed into the digestion zone.
26. The method of claim 25 wherein the feed is comminuted to a particle size of about 1/8 inch in diameter or less.
27. The method of claim 14 comprising soaking the feed in a soaking zone before introducing the feed into the digestion zone.
28. The method of claim 27 comprising maintaining the soaking zone at a sufficiently elevated temperature for killing pathogens.
29. The method of claim 27 comprising the step of adding water to the soaking zone to maintain the water content of the soaking zone at at least 20% water by volume.
30. The method of claim 27 comprising introducing bacteria into the soaking zone.
31. The method of claim 14 wherein the temperature in the digestion zone is at least 140°F.
32. The method of claim 14 comprising introducing a buffer into the digestion zone.
33. The method of claim 14 comprising introducing an accelerant into the digestion zone.
34. The method of claim 33 wherein the accelerant is selected from the group consisting of a nitrogen source, a phosphorus source, a potassium source, and a carbon source.
35. The method of claim 34 wherein the accelerant contains nitrogen.
36. The method of claim 14 wherein the withdrawn digested feed contains water, the method comprising the additional step of removing water from the withdrawn digested feed.
37. The method of claim 36 comprising introducing a buffer into the digestion zone, the buffer containing water removed from the withdrawn digested feed.
38. The method of claim 14 wherein the biodigestible feed has a brackish liquid portion with a density of about 1.009 to about 1.012.
39. The method of claim 14 wherein the bacteria is at least one organism from the families of Bacillus subtillis, Bacillus sphaericus, Bacillus megatarium, Bacillus licheniformis, Enterobacter sakazakii, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus pasteurii, Bacillus cirroflagellosus and Bacillus pumilus.
40. The method of claim 39 comprises at least one organism from each of the families.
41. The method of claim 27 comprising the step of introducing a buffer into the soaking zone.
42. The method of claim 41 wherein the buffer compound or more than one compound selected from the group consisting of CaC03, MgC03, MnO, NaOH, and KOH.
43. The method of claim 27 comprising introducing an accelerant containing nitrogen into the soaking zone.
44. The method of claim 27 comprising the step of withdrawing solids from the soaking zone.
45. The method of claim 14 comprising the step of separating the withdrawn digested feed into a predominantly solid phase and a predominantly liquid phase.
46. The method of claim 45 comprising soaking the feed in a soaking zone, and adding water from the predominantly liquid phase into the soaking zone.
47. The method of claim 46 comprising including a buffer in the water of the predominantly liquid phase added to the soaking zone.
48. The method of claim 45 comprising introducing water of the predominantly liquid phase into an algae cultivation zone.
49. The method of claim 14 wherein a gas is generated in the digestion zone, the method comprising the step of withdrawing gas from the digestion zone.
50. The method of claim 49 wherein the withdrawn gas is a fuel gas.
51. The method of claim 49 comprising the step of detecting the composition of the withdrawn gas for controlling the digestion process in the digestion zone.
52. The method of claim 51 comprising the step of controlling the digestion process based on the composition of the withdrawn gas by changing at least one of the digestion zone temperature, adding bacteria to the digestion zone, changing the residence time in the digestion zone, changing the digestion zone pressure, changing the pH in the digestion zone, and changing the composition of gas introduced into the digestion zone.
53. The method of claim 45 comprising forming a cake from the predominantly solid phase.
54. The method of claim 53 comprising burning the solid cake as a fuel.
55. The method of claim 49 wherein the withdrawn gas contains carbon dioxide, the method comprising the step of using the carbon dioxide for supporting algae growth.
56. A method for digesting biodigestible feed comprising the steps of:
a) comminuting the feed;
b) soaking the comminuted feed in a soaking zone;
c) introducing bacteria into the soaking zone;
d) introducing the comminuted, soaked feed, an oxygen containing gas, an accelerant, and bacteria into a digestion zone, the bacteria being suitable for digesting the feed under aerobic, anaerobic, and anoxic conditions;
e) modifying the contents of the digestion zone from aerobic operation to either anoxic or anaerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone;
f) after step e), modifying the contents of the digestion zone back to aerobic operation without changing the bacteria in the digestion zone; and
g) withdrawing digested feed from the digestion zone, the withdrawn digested feed containing water;
h) separating the withdrawn digested feed into a predominantly solid phase and a predominantly liquid phase;
i) introducing a buffer into the digestion zone, the buffer comprising water separated from the withdrawn digested feed; and
j) introducing water from the predominantly liquid phase into the soaking zone.
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