The present work shows the experimental evidence carried out on a pilot scale and demonstrating the potential of Cannabis sativa
L. by-products for biogas production through anaerobic digestion. While the current state-of-the-art tests on anaerobic digestion feasibility are carried out at the laboratory scale, the here described tests were carried out at a pilot-to-large scale. An experimental campaign was carried out on hemp straw residues to assess the effective performance of this feedstock in biogas production by reproducing the real operating conditions of an industrial plant. An organic loading rate was applied according to two different amounts of hemp straw residues (3% wt/wt and 5% wt/wt). Also, specific bioenhancers were used to maximize biogas production. When an enzymatic treatment was not applied, a higher amount of hemp straw residues determined an increase of the median values of the gas production rate of biogas of 92.1%. This reached 116.6% when bioenhancers were applied. The increase of the specific gas production of biogas due to an increment of the organic loading rate (5% wt/wt) was +77.9% without enzymatic treatment and it was +129.8% when enzymes were used. The best management of the biodigester was found in the combination of higher values of hemp straw residues coupled with the enzymatic treatment, reaching 0.248 Nm3
of specific biogas production. Comparisons were made between the biogas performance obtained within the present study and those found in the literature review coming from studies on a laboratory scale, as well as those related to the most common energy crops. The hemp straw performance was similar to those provided by previous studies on a laboratory scale. Values reported in the literature for other lignocellulosic crops are close to those of this work. Based on the findings, biogas production can be improved by using bioenhancers. Results suggest an integration of industrial hemp straw residues as complementary biomass for cleaner production and to contribute to the fight against climate change.
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