Student: Josh Centorcelli

Project: In Silico Modelling of the Energy-Intensive Process to Recover Nitrogen from Agricultural Fertilizer Streams

View: Research Poster (PDF)

Institution: Lehigh University

Major: Chemical and Bomolecular Engineering

Advisor: Jonas Baltrusaitis


In recent years there has been an increase in the use of biogas in order to generate green renewable electricity. One of the main byproducts of this biogas production is a liquid digestate that is rich in nitrogen. Currently this digestate is sold back directly to farmers to use in their fields but the digestate can release greenhouse gases, such as N2O, during transportation and use therefore offsetting some of the gains from production of biogas in the first place. One potential solution to this is converting the liquid digestate that is produced in a biogas digestion reactor into profitable nitrogen-based fertilizers. One fertilizer in particular, ammonia bicarbonate NH4HCO3, can be produced through the use of a distillation column which serves as a pre-concentrator and a crystallization unit that precipitates the solid ammonia bicarbonate. This distillation column and crystallizer can be optimized and then controlled in order to evaluate the practicality of adding these additional units to a biogas plant.  The optimization of the system focused on minimizing total annualized cost(TAC) which combines the capital and utility cost associated with operating the process and the conversion of nitrogen into the solid ammonia bicarbonate. Once the optimal operating reflux ratio, pressure, and condenser temperature were determined for the column, the controllability of the system was analyzed with a focus on maintaining compositions in the distillate and bottom stream of the column.


Josh Centorcelli

About Josh Centorcelli

Josh Centorcelliis a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Economics from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Following graduation, Josh will be working as an Associate Specialist-Engineering at Merck in Elkton, Virginia. In the Baltrusaitis lab, Josh works on steady state and dynamic modelling for transformation of biogas digestate in high valued nitrogen-based fertilizers. In addition to his interest in process modelling Josh also works on research relating to production and stability of extracellular vesicles.  Josh also served as the president of club golf and is a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society.