The implications of facility design and enabling policies on the economics of dry anaerobic digestion
Diverting organic waste from landfills provides significant emissions benefits in addition to preserving landfill capacity and creating value-added energy and compost products. Dry anaerobic digestion (AD) is particularly attractive for managing the organic fraction of municipal solid waste because of its high-solids composition and minimal water requirements. This study utilizes empirical data from operational facilities in California in order to explore the key drivers of dry AD facility profitability, impacts of market forces, and the efficacy of policy incentives. The study finds that dry AD facilities can achieve meaningful economies of scale with organic waste intake amounts larger than 75,000 tonnes per year. Materials handling costs, including the disposal of inorganic residuals from contaminated waste streams and post-digester mass (digestate) management, are both the largest and the most uncertain facility costs. Facilities that utilize the biogas for vehicle fueling and earn associated fuel credits collect revenues that are 4-6x greater than those of facilities generating and selling electricity and 10-12x greater than facilities selling natural gas at market prices. The results suggest important facility design elements and enabling policies to support an increased scale of organic waste handling infrastructure.