Pumps for Biogas Plants

Pumps for Biogas Plants

Pumps are required to bridge differences in height between the levels of slurry-flow through the biogas unit. They can also be required to mix the substrate or to speed up slow flowing substrates. If substrates have a high solids content and do not flow at all, but cannot be diluted, pumps or transport belts are essential.


Pumps are driven by engines, are exposed to wear and tear and can be damaged. They are costly, consume energy and can disrupt the filling process. For these reasons, pumps should be avoided where possible and methods of dilution and use of the natural gradient be utilized instead.

If pumps cannot be avoided, they can be installed in two ways:

  • Dry installation: the pump is connected in line with the pipe. The substrate flows freely up to the pump and is accelerated while passing through the pump.
  • Wet installation: the pump is installed with an electric engine inside the substrate. The electric engine is sealed in a watertight container. Alternatively, the pump in the substrate is driven by a shaft, the engine is outside the substrate.

Types of pumps

Rotary pumps

Rotary pumps operate with a rotor which presses the liquid against the outside wall of the rotor chamber. Due to the geometry of the chamber the liquid is pushed into the outlet pipe. Rotary pumps are very common in liquid manure technology. They are simple and robust and used mainly for substrates of less than 8% solids content. The quantity conveyed per time unit depends largely on the height of lift or the conveying pressure. The maximum conveying pressure is between 0,8 and 3.5 bar. The quantity that can be conveyed varies from 2 to 6 m3per min. at a power input of 3 – 15 kW. Rotary pumps cannot, usually, be used as a sucking device. As a special form of rotary pumps, the chopper pump deserves mentioning. It’s rotor is equipped with blades to chop substrates with long fibers like straw and other fodder parts before pumping them up. Both wet and dry installation is possible with rotary pumps.

Positive displacement pumps

Positive displacement pumps are normally used for substrates with higher solids content. They pump and suck at the same time. Their potential quantity conveyed is less dependent on the conveying pressure than with rotary pumps. The direction of pumping / sucking can be changed into the opposite direction by changing the sense of rotation. In biogas units, mainly the eccentric spiral pump and the rotary piston pump (both positive displacement pumps) are used. For better access, a dry installation is the preferred option.

Eccentric spiral pump

This pump has a stainless steel rotor, similar to a cork screw, which turns in an elastic casing. Eccentric spiral pumps can suck from a depth of up to 8.5m and can produce a pressure of up to 24 bar. The are, however, more susceptible to obstructive, alien elements than rotary pumps. Of disadvantage is further the danger of fibrous material wrapping round the spiral.

Rotary piston pump

Rotary piston pumps operate on counter-rotating winged pistons in an oval casing. They can pump and suck as well and achieve pressures of up to 10 bar. The potential quantity conveyed ranges from 0.5 to 4 m3/min. The allow for larger alien objects and more fibrous material than eccentric spiral pumps.

Table 4: Types of pumps in comparison

rotary pumps chopper pumps eccentric spiral pump rotary piston pump
solids content < 8 % < 8 % < 15 % < 15 %


3 – 15 kW 3 – 15 kW 3 – 22 kW 3 – 20 kW
quantity conveyed 2 – 6 m3/min 2 – 6 m3/min 0,3 – 3,5 m3/min 0,5 – 4 m3/min
pressure 0,8 – 3,5 bar 0,8 – 3,5 bar < 25 bar < 10 bar
structure of


medium long


long fibers short fibers medium long


max. size of obstructive elements approx. 5 cm depending on choppers approx. 4 cm approx. 6 cm
intake not sucking not sucking sucking sucking
suitability suitable for large quantities; simple and robust built suitable for longfiber substrates which need to be chopped up. Suitable for high pressures, but susceptible to obstructive bodies higher pressures than rotary pumps, but higher wear and tear
price comparison cheaper than positive displacement pumps depending on choppers similar to rotary piston pump

similar to

eccentric spiral


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