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Dr. Stefan Dröge, Leiter der PFI BiotechnologieHigher, faster, stronger“ – the Olympic motto is particularly fitting for PFI Biotechnology’s projects:

In the Biogas Round Robin Tests our laboratory has once again succeeded in being awarded the sector’s badge of sporting prowess.

The research project “FerMiQ” is concerned with improved monitoring methods for stable processes in biogas plants. Our goal is to develop a novel procedure for quantitative analysis of fermenter-microbiology in biogas plants as a basis for recommendations for optimised operation of such plants.

Switching to alternative substrates for biogas plants necessitates coping with high cellulose contents, with high nitrogen burdens, and possibly with high levels of lignification. The “OptiCell Project” aims to develop a process which substantially improves the extent of degradation of difficult substrates.

The “P Project” is coming up for the final spurt towards the finishing line: The last technical components are currently being installed in the phosphorus recovery plant at the Felsalbe sewage works near Pirmasens. The plant is due to come on stream at the start of 2020. It will be presented to the public in the course of an information day.

Wishing you a pleasant read,

Dr. Stefan Dröge




Information Day on Climate Protection

On 20 September PFI invited interested persons to an “Information Day on Climate Protection in Pirmasens” at Pirmasens-Winzeln Energy Park with the objective of demonstrating the contribution of sustainably generated bioenergy.

Working plants operated by PFI and Pirmasens municipal utilities served to demonstrate the principles of biogas production, power-to-gas, and biological methanation as well as the feeding of biomethane into the regional natural gas grid. 

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PFI Again Successful in Biogas Round Robin Tests

In 2019 – as in previous years – our laboratory once again demonstrated its wide range of analytical skills in the biogas sector.

This time the principal focus was on substrate characterisation, ranging from measurement of biogas yields, trace element determination in fermenter liquors, all the way to determination of nutrients in digestates.

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New Analytical Methods Improve the Stability of Processes in Biogas Plants

A sustainable and stable process is a fundamental prerequisite for efficient and economic operation of a biogas plant. It is therefore necessary to make regular checks on process stability and nutrient status of the fermenter as well as on the quality and biogas potential of the input substrate.

However, there remains considerable potential for development with regard to the analytical methods employed. Combinations of well-established analytical chemical methods with the latest molecular-biological techniques appear particularly promising.

And that is what the research project “Fer-MiQ“ is all about: PFI Biotechnology and AMODIA Bioservice are developing a novel procedure for quantitative analysis of fermenter microbiology in biogas plants with the intention of deriving recommended codes of practice for optimised operation of biogas plants.

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More Biogas from Alternative Feedstocks

The search for alternatives to maize and other energy plants is currently a hot topic in the biogas sector. High prices and an increasingly critical public opinion are prompting plant operators to rethink their position. Moreover, amendments to the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) demand new substrates, for example perennial grasses, cup plant, or tall wheatgrass.

Many plant operators are switching to residual and waste products such as agricultural by-products like green waste, straw, manure, or poultry dung, which can prove to be challenging for process engineering and process biology. High cellulose contents, nitrogen load, and in some cases a very high degree of lignification have a detrimental effect on the degree of degradation and process stability.

This is where the “OptiCell“ Project comes in: Pre-treatment of the substrate at temperatures in excess of 60 °C is reported to enhance the growth and activity of particularly effective cellulose-degrading bacteria and to attain a greatly improved degree of degradation of the substrates.

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Phosphorus Recovery Project

Trial operation of the phosphorus recovery plant at the Felsalbe sewage treatment plant in Pirmasens, which is currently under construction, is scheduled for the beginning of 2020. The process was recently presented at a DWA meeting where it attracted avid interest.

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PFI Biotechnology
Prüf- und Forschungsinstitut Pirmasens e.V. (Test and Research Institute Pirmasens)

Marie-Curie-Straße 19
66953 Pirmasens | Germany

Phone: +49 6331 2490 0
Fax: +49 6331 2490 60

Internet: | | | | |

Chairman: Michael Tackenberg

Managing Director: Dr. Kerstin Schulte

Department Heads:

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Benjamin Pacan | Technical Development, Research Plants, Project Management

Dr. rer. nat. Stefan Dröge | Biotechnology and Microbiology, Project Management

Authors: Dr. Patrick Ballmann, Dr. Stefan Dröge, Dr. Thomas Fiehn, Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Benjamin Pacan

Redaktion: Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Elisabeth Rouiller | Translation: Anthony J. Rackstraw B.Sc. (Hons)

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Biotech NL March 2019

Read the German version of this newsletter

Biotech NL March 2019

Read the PFI Germany newsletter