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Tree-Based Automated Machine Learning to Predict Biogas Production for Anaerobic Co-digestion of Organic Waste


The dynamics of microbial communities involved in anaerobic digestion of mixed organic waste are notoriously complex and difficult to model, yet successful operation of anaerobic digestion is critical to the goals of diverting high-moisture organic waste from landfills. Machine learning (ML) is ideally suited to capturing complex and nonlinear behavior that cannot be modeled mechanistically. This study uses 8 years of data collected from an industrial-scale anaerobic co-digestion (AcoD) operation at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Oakland, California, combined with a powerful automated ML method, Tree-based Pipeline Optimization Tool, to develop an improved understanding of how different waste inputs and operating conditions impact biogas yield. The model inputs included daily input volumes of 31 waste streams and 5 operating parameters. Because different wastes are broken down at varying rates, the model explored a range of time lags ascribed to each waste input ranging from 0 to 30 days. The results suggest that the waste types (including rendering waste, lactose, poultry waste, and fats, oils, and greases) differ considerably in their impact on biogas yield on both a per-gallon basis and a mass of volatile solids basis, while operating parameters were not good predictors of yield at this facility.

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