Anaerobic processes

"Biogas plants must become more flexible in terms of their substrates and energy delivery. Only then will they be able to continue making a major contribution to the safeguarding of energy supplies in future."

Dr. Peter Kornatz, Head of the research focus area


Processes using micro-organisms to convert biomass under anaerobic conditions form the basis of many biotechnologies for the production and supply of material and energy sources. The "Anaerobic Processes" research focus area primarily develops efficient and flexible methods of biogas production to meet the needs of future energy systems. Linkage to material recycling processes enhances the added value. To that end, the research focus area develops tools for process monitoring and control, concepts for flexible, low-emission plants and operating regimes, methods of assessing and optimising efficiency, as well as to maximise material turnover, particularly for difficult substrates.


Biogas production technology is in widespread use throughout Germany, with over 8,000 plants in operation. Lots of different concepts and components exist, offering solutions under virtually any framework conditions. In the past, under the Germany's Renewable Energies Act (EEG) biogas plants were designed and built for defined substrates and constant energy output.

The plants of the future will have to adapt flexibly to changing substrate qualities. In order to maximise utilisation of the energy produced, its production will be in line with external demand - for both power and heat. To do that end, the primary need is for better process monitoring and control tools, so as to avoid losses and emissions in meeting higher demands with flexible process control. Key factors in this are emissions of climate-impacting gases. In order to analyse them in existing plants, methods will have to be developed and representative studies conducted.

A further key task for the future is to improve the economic viability of biogas production plants. The fundamental cost of producing power from biogas is comparatively high. Consequently, measures to improve efficiency while cutting costs, as well as integration into the process chain of methods of use as a material source, will be of major importance in boosting value creation.


This research focus area is developing methods of process assessment and control in close cooperation with scientific and industrial partners. The aim is to enable precision process control even under dynamic conditions, thereby improving efficiency and minimising losses and emissions. The integration of usage as a material source based on the extraction of interim products is being driven forward in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the "Processes for chemical bioenergy sources and motor fuels" research focus area.

Research focus area "Anaerobic processes"
Research focus area "Anaerobic processes"

In the research focus "Anaerobic processes", efficient and flexible processes for the requirements of the future energy system are developed primarily for biogas production. The coupling to processes for material recycling leads to a higher added value.

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Important reference projects (Selection)

  • SubEval – Verbundvorhaben: Bewertung von Substraten hinsichtlich des Gasertrags – vom Labor zur großtechnischen Anlage; Teilvorhaben 1: Durchführung der Labor- und Praxisversuche, Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft/Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V., 01.10.2015–30.09.2018 (FKZ: 22034614)
  • OptiFlex – Optimierung des Betriebs und Design von Biogasanlagen für eine bedarfsgerechte, flexibilisierte und effiziente Biogasproduktion unter Berücksichtigung der Prozessstabilität als Post-EEG Strategie, Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft/Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V., 01.10.2017–30.09.2020 (FKZ: 22401717)
  • CIP – Entwicklung einer kostengünstigen Wertschöpfungskette für biobasierte Olefine und Komplexnährmedien auf Basis von Insektenbiomasse für die industrielle Anwendung, Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie/Projektträger Jülich, 01.10.2017–31.12.2019 (FKZ: 031B0338A)
  • SchlauFe2 – IBÖM04 Entwicklung eines geotextilen, mehrjährig verwendbaren Schlauchfermentationsverfahrens für TS-arme Biomassen, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung/Projektträger Jülich, 01.05.2018–30.04.2020 (FKZ: 031B0578A)

Important publications (Selection)

  • Kretzschmar, J.; Böhme, P.; Liebetrau, J.; Mertig, M.; Harnisch, F. (2018). "Microbial Electrochemical Sensors for Anaerobic Digestion Process Control: Performance of Electroactive Biofilms under Real Conditions". Chemical Engineering & Technology (ISSN: 0930-7516), Vol. 41, H. 4. S. 687–695. DOI: 10.1002/ceat.201700539.
  • Janke, L.; Weinrich, S.; Leite, A. F.; Sträuber, H.; Radetski, C. M.; Nikolausz, M.; Nelles, M.; Stinner, W. (2018). "Year-round biogas production in sugarcane biorefineries: Process stability, optimization and performance of a two-stage reactor system". Energy Conversion and Management (ISSN: 0196-8904), Vol. 168, H. 168. S. 188–199. DOI: 10.1016/j.enconman.2018.04.101.
  • Zehnsdorf, A.; Moeller, L.; Stabenau, N.; Bauer, A.; Wedwitschka, H.; Gallegos, D.; Stinner, W.; Herbes, C. (2018). "Biomass potential analysis of aquatic biomass and challenges for its use as a non-conventional substrate in anaerobic digestion plants". Engineering in Life Sciences (ISSN: 1618-2863), Vol. 18, H. 7. S. 492–497. DOI: 10.1002/elsc.201800032.
  • Bonk, F.; Popp, D.; Weinrich, S.; Sträuber, H.; Kleinsteuber, S.; Harms, H.; Centler, F. (2018). "Ammonia Inhibition of Anaerobic Volatile Fatty Acid Degrading Microbial Communities". Frontiers in Microbiology (ISSN: 1664-302X), H. 9. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02921.
  • Murphy, J. (Hrsg.) (2018). Weinrich, S.; Schäfer, F.; Bochmann, G.; Liebetrau, J. Value of batch tests for biogas potential analysis: Method comparison and challenges of substrate and efficiency evaluation of biogas plants: IEA Bioenergy. 44 S. ISBN: 78-1-910154-48-9.


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