Recently the United States Environmental Protection Agency qualified biogas from landfills and anaerobic digesters as a cellulosic transportation biofuel under the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). Biogas is a renewable fuel that can generate Renewable Identification Number credits for the producer. The wastewater industry may not be able to keep pace with this opportunity. Less than 10% of WWTPs in the US have currently produced biogas for beneficial use. Supporting growth of the biogas industry requires implementation of new practices and policies. In this review, the barriers, gaps, and challenges in deploying biogas production technology are identified. Issues are classified as economic, technical, social or regulatory issues. Some of the critical challenges to the economics of digester operations are the slow rate of biogas generation, the low energy content of the biogas, and the costs to upgrade the biogas.
Currently there is little biogas utilization at US WWTPs. Most biogas is flared while some is used for onsite process heat and power production. Case studies of co-digestion of biosolids with organic wastes at field-scale show the use of co-digestion could overcome significant economic challenges including higher methane yield, more efficient digester volume utilization and reduced biosolids production. These findings could provide guidance in retrofitting existing facilities or in designing new biogas production and utilization systems. The RFS2 ruling increases market certainty, hence reduces risk. The evaluation of applications of co-digestion at WWTP scales ranging from 1 million gallons per day (MGD) to 375 MGD determined its potential feasibility for different types of digester operation, organic waste and loading rate as well as effectiveness of providing energy self-sufficiency at the WWTPs. This work could improve economics of anaerobic digestion at WWTPs, enabling viable and sustainable biogas industry and offsetting costs for wastewater management.