With the increasing application of energy crops in agricultural biogas plants and increasing digester volumes, the phenomenon of self-heating in anaerobic digesters appeared in some cases. Until now this development was just known from aerobic systems. To obtain an idea of the thermodynamics inside an anaerobic digester, a detailed analysis of all heat fluxes in a full-scale agricultural biogas plant was carried out. Several experiments were realised to quantify the influences of different internal and external energy sources. To estimate the impact of self-heating in anaerobic systems, data of other full-scale agricultural biogas plants in Austria were collected. Alternatives to the cooling of the digesters are discussed based on individual experiences of several plants. A connection between carbohydrate-rich substrates, especially with high starch contents, and the self-heating could be shown. From the results it can be assumed that the anaerobic digestion of most energy crops is exothermic, which is in contrast to the current thermodynamic belief.

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