Dissecting biomethane production in anaerobic digestion plants through DNA sequencing

Anna Alessi, Bing Tao, Sonia Heaven, Charles Banks, Jane Elizabeth Thomas-Oates, James Paul Jonathan Chong

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Production of methane via biologically optimised process offer an alternative to natural gas consumption as its demand increases annually (EU by 7.1% since 2010). Processes of converting domestic waste to gaseous, energy-rich biomethane are reported across the world with the potential to use this renewable energy source for national grid balancing and transportation. Biomethane production however requires upgrading which is a cost-limiting step making the product economically unviable. With experimental approaches of laboratory scale reactors and DNA sequencing, we studied the identity and physiology of the microorganisms responsible for anaerobic digestion and methane production. Reactors’ performance was monitored daily for one year to collect robust operational data that will be used for scaling the reactors’ working volume and for predicting their performance at industrial scale. Biological samples were used for DNA metagenome sequencing. By combining short and long reads sequencing techniques, it was possible to obtain the complete or nearly complete genomes for several of the most abundant microorganisms. The DNA sequences revealed that some of these microorganisms are able to utilise sugars to produce hydrogen, CO2 and acids while others are efficient in converting these compounds as substrates to a high quality biomethane. This provides evidence that close interactions between microorganisms occur in the bioreactors, occupied by highly specialized and enriched community. The sequencing results enable a deeper understanding of the diversity and ecology of the resident microbial community that in the future could be manipulated to increase the efficiency and quality of the anaerobic digestion process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018
EventMicrobiology Society Annual Conferene - ICC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Apr 201813 Apr 2018


ConferenceMicrobiology Society Annual Conferene
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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