I graduated from the University of Warwick with an integrated master’s degree inSystems Engineering back in 2012. During the degreeI took an opportunity to gain industrial experience with an eleven-month placement at the Home OfficeCentre for Applied Science and Technology. Here I developed vital workplace skills including engineering practices,project management and teamwork and a general understanding of a working life. After a successful placement andfinal year group project on portable renewable systems I grew a keen interest for the scientific research and development industry. Having interests in both science and natureI wanted to find a role that nurtures my personality and capabilities. As a postgraduate researcher in bioenergyI can satisfy my curiosity andplay a part in a role that considers the wider impacts and future energy strategies.
Integration of Hydrothermal Carbonisation with Anaerobic Digestion: Opportunities for Valorisation of Digestate
My research interests are in the use of thermochemical and biological conversion methods for the production of sustainable gaseous and solid biofuels including energy recovery and valorisation of wet organic wastes. Current challenges lie in utilising wet wastes as they are difficult to process by conventional methods. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is an established biological conversion technology in the UK for creating methane from organic waste. A by-product from this process, called digestate, is currently disposed to land. However, it is likely that new legalisation will come into place into the UK limiting disposal options. Interest is growing to find digestate enhancing technologies to increase the value of digestate, create new markets and decrease operating costs.
A thermochemical process called hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) can convert wet organic material in the presence of water at high temperatures and pressures, very much mimicking nature. Products include a carbonaceous solid called ‘biocoal’ and has potential applications as a fuel, adsorbent or soil additive. A by-product called process water is also made and is high in dissolved organics. This process water can be biologically converted using mesophilic bacteria to produce a ‘biogas’ rich in methane. Therefore, the overall aim of my research is to identify the potential of integrating HTC with AD to treat and valorise digestate.
Hydrothermal carbonisation can deliver a promising method to convert digestate into a safer, higher quality product while improving AD efficiency and operator revenue by increasing biogas yields. The extraction of valuable chemicals and nutrients, such as phosphorous, is also facilitated. Integration of HTC with AD has the potential tohelpreach renewable energy targets and createsignificant economic gain to the bioenergy and bio-economy sector, whilst maintaining a circular economy. This approach also has environmental benefits by reducing the disposal of digestate to land, mitigating heavy metal leaching and fugitive methane emissions.
In summary, hydrothermal carbonisation therefore provides a flexible approach to valorisation of digestate and different options for integration of HTC and AD are possible. Please click my ORCiD for links on further works.
Why I chose the CDT in Bioenergy
I chose the CDT in Bioenergy to play a part in the sustainable development of energy systems and work within the universities interdisciplinary nature. The university understands the importance of applying methods and analytical frameworks from other departments to examine a theme. In doing so, I have had the chance to not only work with people and in laboratories at my own school but also in departments at Civil Engineering and Chemistry. This has given me the chance to work in varied environments and broaden my understanding of the scientific community.
Activities outside of research studies
Taking regular walks and mountain biking in and around spectacular sites in Yorkshire, such as the dales, is one of my favourite activities. I am also an avid music lover, most of which is driven by Leeds’s great live music scene. The ability to try out different activities from the range of clubs and societies on offer is also fun. I’m looking forward to joining the Bardon Grange Project, where you can grow and eat your own food on the campus!
In the future, I am hoping to continue work in the next generation of renewable energy technologies. Whether it may be in academia or at a company I would like to apply my skills in a role that supports research and innovation to better the human condition and environment.
Dr Andrew Ross
Dr Miller Camargo-Valero