Sugar beet press pulp (SBP) accumulates as a by-product in sugar factories and it is generally silaged or dried to be used as animal food. Rising energy prices and the opening of the European Union sugar market has put pressure on the manufacturers to find alternatives for energy supply. The aim of this project was to develop a technology in the treatment of SBP that would lead to savings in energy consumption and would provide a more competitive sugar production from sugar beets. These goals were met by the anaerobic digestion of SBP for biogas production. Lab-scale experiments confirmed the suitability of SBP as substrate for anaerobic bacteria. Pilot-scale experiments focused on process optimization and procedures for a quick start up and operational control. Both single-stage and two-stage process configurations showed similar removal efficiency. A stable biogas production could be achieved in single-stage at a maximum volumetric loading rate of 10 kgCSB/(m3·d). Degradation efficiency was 75% for VS and 72% for COD. Average specific gas production reached 530 NL/kgCODSBP or 610 NL/kgVSSBP. (CH4: 50 to 53%). The first large-scale biogas plant was put into operation during the sugar processing period 2007 at a Hungarian sugar factory. Digesting approximately 50% of the SBP (800 t/d, 22%TS), the biogas produced could substitute about 40% of the natural gas required for the thermal energy supply within the sugar processing.

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