Alkalinity or pH buffering capacity in anaerobic digesters is chiefly a function of bicarbonate levels, and should be within 10 to 50 mM for stable operation. A novel on-line instrument for measuring bicarbonate alkalinity has been developed, independent of titration techniques.
Using a 10 litre anaerobic filter digester operating on ice-cream wastewater, on-line measurements were made of bicarbonate alkalinity, pH, gas production and % CO2 and hydrogen concentration in the biogas during periods of organic overload. The bicarbonate alkalinity monitor was shown to be an effective instrument for monitoring instability of anaerobic digestion, and a useful tool for early warning of overloading. Moreover, in digesters fed with wastewaters containing low potential alkalinity, it allows indirect on-line determination of variations in volatile fatty acid concentration. Finally, used in conjunction with a sensor that measures CO2 in the gas, it allows an indirect but accurate determination of pH in those solutions where fouling of electrodes is severe.