The stability and operational performance of single stage digestion with and without liquor recycle and two stage digestion were assessed using a mixture of paper and wood as the digestion substrate. Attempts to maintain stable digestion in both single stage reactors were unsuccessful due to the inherently low natural buffering capacity exhibited; this resulted in a rapid souring of the reactor due to unbuffered volatile fatty acid (VFA) accumulation. The use of lime to control pH was unsatisfactory due to interference with the carbonate/bicarbonate equilibrium resulting in wide oscillations in the control parameter. The two stage system overcame the pH stability problems allowing stable operation for a period of 200 days without any requirement for pH control; this was attributed to the rapid flushing of VFA from the first stage reactor into the second stage, where efficient conversion to methane was established. Reactor performance was judged to be satisfactory with the breakdown of 53% of influent volatile solids. It was concluded that the reactor configuration of the two stage system offers the potential for the treatment of cellulosic wastes with a sub-optimal carbon to nitrogen ratio for conventional digestion.

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