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Biogas upgrading by means of cyclic adsorption processes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Fernandez-Martin
    Prof J Anderson
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

This project will study a frontier technology to decrease the overall current energy penalty of the biogas upgrading process.
Accordingly, the PhD candidate will focus on the comparative effects of the proposed technology and the currently studied/employed upgrading strategies, considering crucial parameters such as energy requirements, process efficiency, purity of biomethane produced, heating rates, kinetics of adsorption/desorption, etc. The research outcomes will allow to determine whether the proposed technology would be an emergent and competitive technology for biogas upgrading.

Global warming is one of the most worldwide current challenges facing humanity, a direct consequence of the increasing CO2 emissions generated from the combustion of fossil fuels. To confront the current energy production footprint, research on transformative and more efficient technologies to produce energy from renewables, and cleaner energy from fossil fuels (Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage, CCUS) is unquestionably needed. Biogas produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste is a clean and renewable source of energy, considered as one of the most environmentally friendly technologies for replacing fossil fuels [1-3].

Prior to biogas utilisation, there are two treatment steps: cleaning (compulsory, to remove traces of corrosive compounds such as hydrogen sulphide and siloxanes), and upgrading (optional, to remove CO2) [4]. The latter is gaining attention because CO2 elimination increases the biogas heating value (energy content), thus making the final biomethane ready for use as vehicle fuel, or to be injected into the natural gas grid for a decentralised use [5, 6].

The current biogas upgrading techniques are chemical or physical scrubbing, pressure swing adsorption (PSA), and membrane separation. The main consideration for selecting the specific technique is the amount of energy required. Yet current techniques are highly energy demanding (3-6% of the biogas energy), making the upgrading a process with high potential for improvement [7].

Adsorption using low-cost solid sorbents is a very promising and cost-effective gas separation technology to upgrade biogas that offers potential energy savings compared to the more extended chemical and physical scrubbing processes. Carbon molecular sieves, activated carbons, and zeolites are the adsorbents most widely employed for biogas upgrading [8-10].

Proposed research:
Accordingly, this project will study alternative biogas upgrading strategies based on the separation by means of adsorption, targeting at increasing the efficiency of the overall separation process, and hence reduce the energy required per m3 of biogas upgraded, as well as the purity and recovery of the biomethane produced.

The successful candidate should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering or any related discipline, such as Chemistry, Physics

Essential background: Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Chemical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Materials Science, Gas Separation Processes, Adsorption, Mass and Energy Balances

Knowledge of: Materials science, materials characterisation (understanding of experimental characterisation techniques, such as gas chromatograph, FTIR, TGA, porosimeter…), organic chemistry, physical chemistry, reactor dynamics, thermodynamics and heat transfer, gas separation processes, adsorption, kinetics of adsorption and desorption, etc.
Microsoft Office package (specially Excel). The knowledge of any other software such as Matlab, Aspen Hysys (Adsorption) will be valuable.


Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Informal inquiries can be made to Dr C Fernandez-Martin ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only.

There are Additional Research costs attached to this project amounting to between £1,000-£1,300 per annum in addition to tuition fees and living expenses.


[1] Jeihanipour, A., Aslanzadeh, S., Rajendran, K., Balasubramanian, G., Taherzadeh, M. J. Renew Energ. 2013, 52, 128–135.
[2] Weiland, P. Appl Microbiol Biot. 2010, 85, 849–860.
[3] Chandra, R., Tekeuchi, H., Hasegawa, T., Kumar, R. Energy. 2012, 43, 273–282.
[4] Awe, O.W., Zhao, Y., Nzihou, A. et al. Waste Biomass Valor. 2017, 8 (2), 267-283.
[5] Bekkering, J., Hengeveld, E.J., van Gemert WJT, Broekhuis, AA. Appl Energ. 2015, 140, 409-417.
[6] Petersson, A., Wellinger, A. IEA Bioenergy. 2009.
[7] Raab, K., Lamprecht, M., Brechtel, K. and Scheffknecht, G. Eng. Life Sci. 2012, 12 (3), 327–335.
[8] Pino, L., Italiano, C., Vita, A., Fabiano, C., Recupero, V. J of Environ Sci. 2016, 48, 138-150.
[9] Paolini,V., Petracchini, F., Guerriero, E., Bencini, A., Drigo, S. Environ Technol. 2016, 37 (11), 1418-1427.
[10] Santos, M.P.S; Grande, C. A; Rodrigues, A.E. Ind Eng Chem Res. 2011, 50, 974-995.

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

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