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The safe construction and management of co-fermentation biogas plants : Existing knowledge, legislation and practical experiences

Het veilig bouwen en beheren van (co-)vergistingsinstallaties voor de productie van biogas : Bestaande kennis, regelgeving en praktijksituaties

Synopsis

For the production of biogas by co-fermentation, manure is mixed with organic waste products that can be fermented, such as harvesting residues and food remains. Since biogas possesses both flammable and toxic properties, largescale production systems are always associated with potential safety risks. Biogas is a mixture of gases and has flammable properties due to the presence of methane (CH4). It is less well known that biogas also has toxic properties when it contains high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S).

In a previous study, the RIVM recommended that standards pertaining to the minimum safety level be applied for the construction and operation of biogas production plants. A subsequent study by the RIVM concluded that the guideline 'Handreiking (co-)vergisting van mest' (InfoMil, 2010) provides a basic framework to achieve this recommended minimum safety level. The RIVM therefore recommends that this latter document be used and further supplemented with specific information for inspection and licensing authorities, the main users of this document.

The composition of the biogas determines whether or not a specific installation falls within or outside the scope of certain (safety) legislation and, consequently, which specific safety regulations and safety inspections are mandatory. As a clear, consistent and predictable composition of biogas does not exist, stricter monitoring of biogas composition in the different compartments of the production plant is recommended. The current assessment of potential safety risks associated with the production of biogas is that these risks principally relate to those working at the biogas installation and are much less relevant to local residents. Further investigations are needed to determine if this is indeed the case.
 

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