Methanogenesis is an important biogeochemical process for the degradation of organic matter within cold environments, and is associated with the release of the potent greenhouse gas, methane. Cold methanogenesis has been harnessed, in engineered systems, as low-temperature anaerobic digestion (LTAD) for wastewater treatment and bioenergy generation. LTAD represents a nascent wastewater treatment biotechnology, which offers an attractive alternative to conventional aerobic and anaerobic processes. Successful, high-rate, LTAD of sewage and industrial wastewaters (e.g. from the brewery, food-processing and pharmaceutical sectors), with concomitant biogas generation, has been demonstrated at laboratory-scale and pilot-scale. A holistic, polyphasic approach, which integrates bioprocess, physiological and molecular biological datasets has been critical to the development of the LTAD concept. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.