The term ‘biogas’ is commonly used to refer to a gas which has been produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The gases methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be combusted or oxidized with oxygen and the resultant energy release allows biogas to be used as a fuel.
In the same way that ethanol and biodiesel have been around for a long time, biogas has a long history. Back in the 13th century, explorer Marco Polo noted that the Chinese used covered sewage tanks to generate power. The author of Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe – referred to biogas technologies back in the 17th century. Biogas has been used widely in the UK for centuries and back in 1895, the city of Exeter used gas from sewage to power its city street lamps.
According to its composition, biogas presents characteristics interesting to compare with natural gas and propane. Biogas is a gas appreciably lighter than air, it produces twice as less calories by combustion with equal volume of natural gas.
Biogas is Awesome!Biogas is also known as biomethane (when further purified and compressed), swamp gas, landfill gas, or digester gas—is the gaseous product of anaerobic digestion (decomposition without oxygen) of organic matter. In addition to providing electricity and heat, biogas is useful as a vehicle fuel. When processed to purity standards, biogas is called renewable natural gas and can substitute for natural gas as an alternative fuel for natural gas vehicles.
The gas has a composition which is usually 50% to 80% methane and 20% to 50% carbon dioxide with traces of gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. In contrast, natural gas is usually more than 70% methane with most of the rest being other hydrocarbons (such as propane and butane) and traces of carbon dioxide and other contaminants.
What is Biogas – Its “one of the most untapped sources of natural and sustainable energy available”
Biogas is one of the most untapped sources of natural and sustainable energy available. It is used all over the world and by far the largest number of biogas plant (technically known as anaerobic digestion plants) are relatively small installations and are found in the developing nations. India for instance has more than 12 million digesters). The Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) 70,000 biogas plants in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal and Burkina Faso. That project alone will be expected to be providing about half a million people access to a sustainable source of energy by this year 2013.
Biogas plants can be useful resources wherever you are. An example of this is the Mount Everest area. It is a destination for climbers and trekkers from all over the world. While visiting our world’s highest mountain, climbers, trekkers, and walkers take away great memories, lots of photos and new friends, but leave behind their untreated waste.
At the Mount Everest Biogas Project they are going to convert human waste from base camp into environmentally safe products for the people of Nepal, by designing a biogas system that can operate at high altitudes (above 5000 meters / 16,400 feet) above sea level. The area is the home to the summit peaks of Mt. Everest, Pumori, Lhotse and Nupste. The base camps for Everest and the other peaks in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal are the expeditions’ summit climb beginning. These base camps host the climbers for weeks as they prepare physically and mentally for the challenge ahead. These camps have also, over the years, been scarred by human impact. With so many people in such a limited space, the challenge of limiting pollution due to human waste has persisted. Anaerobic digestion is unique in its ability to reduce the impact of visitors by providing biogas as a cooking fuel, which reducing the need for the local people to denude the local tree growth to heat their food and eat.
The Future for Biogas Lies With a Domestic Biogas Plant Revolution in the West
That is a measure of how both humble in its nature, but capable of healing nature, anaerobic digestion can be. But there needs to be a revolution in its use so that the western world can reap the same benefits as the east has done at a domestic level.
The west needs to tap it’s own domestic waste for renewable energy and home biogas plants offer a 100% natural way to do this. Clean-burning biogas at home from ordinary kitchen and garden waste is the future. Biogas generates more energy than solar panels anytime day or night, rain or shine at a fraction of the cost. And unlike solar panels, biogas provides excellent cooking fuel and high-quality nitrogen-rich fertilizer for gardening or landscaping. Biogas is a mixture of gases composed largely of methane produced during the natural decomposition of organic matter. Home and small farm biogas systems are simple as 1-2-3 to operate and biogas can be used for anything fossil natural gas can, including cooking, running generators and pumps and even vehicle fuel.
Biogas for the Future
The possibilities of increased use of anaerobic digestion as an effluent treatment process depend upon the introduction of improved small scale and particularly domestic scale reactor designs.
However, there are critical factors influencing the economic use of the process which still need to be addressed in the context of use of AD in the home in the industrialized and wealthy west. The choice of better digester designs is therefore essential in relation to the waste itself, and problems in its supply, and handling and transportation of the end product from urban households will need to be solved. Limitations concerning thermodynamic efficiency, scrubbing costs, flammability, compressibility and storage are also hampering home use of biogas plants.
Communities and governments should be investing heavily in the development of new small scale anaerobic digestion system technologies with the vision of making them as common as the domestic washing machine and dishwasher is today. Then the west would benefit from this amazing technology just as the east is already is. Why is the west so lacking in vision?
“AD in the west has been hijacked by big business”
Surely, the west is being left behind with so few domestic scale AD Plants? They work massively in the developing world so why not in the west?
The fact is that unfortunately in the west we all think of big corporations when we think of biogas, and we are missing the point. Biogas works best at the small scale. Why don’t the developed nations realize this? We are all blind to this because, AD in the west has been hijacked by big business. It has been stolen from the average person. This isn’t right!
What is its Future?
All people in the developed nations should go out and demand government support and investment in their own anaerobic digestion plants in their own homes. Anything less flies against all the evidence.
As we have already explained. They can do it in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal and Burkina Faso. So why not here in the developed world as well?
For more information we suggest you download the excellent factsheet at: http://www.worldbioenergy.org/content/wba-press-release-biogas-important-renewable-energy-source