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Biogas

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Pipes carrying biogas (foreground), natural gas and condensate


Main articles: Natural gas and biofuel

Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter
in the absence of oxygen. Biogas originates from biogenic material and is a type of
biofuel.

Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biodegradable materials


such as biomass, manure, sewage, municipal waste, green waste, plant material and
energy crops.[1] This type of biogas comprises primarily methane and carbon dioxide.
Other types of gas generated by use of biomass is [[wood gas], which is created by
gasification of wood or other biomass. This type of gas consist primarily of nitrogen,
hydrogen, and carbon monoxide, with trace amounts of methane.

The gases methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be combusted or oxidized with
oxygen. Air contains 21% oxygen. This energy release allows biogas to be used as a fuel.
Biogas can be used as a low-cost fuel in any country for any heating purpose, such as
cooking. It can also be used in modern waste management facilities where it can be used
to run any type of heat engine, to generate either mechanical or electrical power. Biogas
can be compressed, much like natural gas, and used to power motor vehicles and in the
UK for example is estimated to have the potential to replace around 17% of vehicle fuel.
[2]
Biogas is a renewable fuel, so it qualifies for renewable energy subsidies in some parts
of the world.

Contents
[hide]

• 1 History
• 2 Production
• 3 Composition
• 4 Applications
• 5 Benefits
• 6 Scope and potential quantities
• 7 In the United States
• 8 In developing nations
o 8.1 Rural Dung Sui Gas (Pakistan)/Deenabandhu Model (India)
• 9 Legislation
• 10 Biogas upgrading
• 11 Biogas gas-grid injection
• 12 See also
• 13 References
• 14 Further reading

• 15 External links

[edit] History
This section does not cite any references or sources.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may
be challenged and removed. (May 2010)

Ancient Persians observed that rotting vegetables produce flammable gas. In 1859
Indians built the first sewage plant in Bombay. Marco Polo has mentioned the use of
covered sewage tanks in China. This is believed to go back to 2,000–3,000 years ago in
ancient China.[citation needed] This idea for the manufacturing of gas was brought to the UK in
1895 by producing wood gas from wood and later coal. The resulting biogas was used for
gas lighting in street lamps and homes.

[edit] Production
Main article: anaerobic digestion
Biogas is practically produced as landfill gas (LFG) or digester gas.

A biogas plant is the name often given to an anaerobic digester that treats farm wastes or
energy crops.

Biogas can be produced utilizing anaerobic digesters. These plants can be fed with energy
crops such as maize silage or biodegradable wastes including sewage sludge and food
waste. During the process, an air-tight tank transforms biomass waste into methane
producing renewable energy that can be used for heating, electricity, and many other
operations that use any variation of an internal combustion engine, such as GE Jenbacher
gas engines.[3] There are two key processes: Mesophilic and Thermophilic digestion.[4]

Landfill gas is produced by wet organic waste decomposing under anaerobic conditions
in a landfill.[5][6] The waste is covered and mechanically compressed by the weight of the
material that is deposited from above. This material prevents oxygen exposure thus
allowing anaerobic microbes to thrive. This gas builds up and is slowly released into the
atmosphere if the landfill site has not been engineered to capture the gas. Landfill gas is
hazardous for three key reasons. Landfill gas becomes explosive when it escapes from the
landfill and mixes with oxygen. The lower explosive limit is 5% methane and the upper
explosive limit is 15% methane.[7] The methane contained within biogas is 20 times more
potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Therefore uncontained landfill gas which
escapes into the atmosphere may significantly contribute to the effects of global
warming. In addition landfill gas' impact in global warming, volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) contained within landfill gas contribute to the formation of photochemical smog.

[edit] Composition
Typical composition of biogas[8]
Compound Chem %
Methane CH4 50–75
Carbon dioxide CO2 25–50
Nitrogen N2 0–10
Hydrogen H2 0–1
Hydrogen sulfide H2S 0–3
Oxygen O2 0–2

The composition of biogas varies depending upon the origin of the anaerobic digestion
process. Landfill gas typically has methane concentrations around 50%. Advanced waste
treatment technologies can produce biogas with 55–75% CH4 [9] or higher using in situ
purification techniques[10] As-produced, biogas also contains water vapor, with the
fractional water vapor volume a function of biogas temperature; correction of measured
volume for water vapor content and thermal expansion is easily done via algorithm.[11]

In some cases biogas contains siloxanes. These siloxanes are formed from the anaerobic
decomposition of materials commonly found in soaps and detergents. During combustion
of biogas containing siloxanes, silicon is released and can combine with free oxygen or
various other elements in the combustion gas. Deposits are formed containing mostly
silica (SiO2) or silicates (SixOy) and can also contain calcium, sulfur, zinc, phosphorus.
Such white mineral deposits accumulate to a surface thickness of several millimeters and
must be removed by chemical or mechanical means.

Practical and cost-effective technologies to remove siloxanes and other biogas


contaminants are currently available.[12]

[edit] Applications
Biogas can be utilized for electricity production on sewage works,[13] in a CHP gas
engine, where the waste heat from the engine is conveniently used for heating the
digester; cooking; space heating; water heating; and process heating. If compressed, it
can replace compressed natural gas for use in vehicles, where it can fuel an internal
combustion engine or fuel cells and is a much more effective displacer of carbon dioxide
than the normal use in on-site CHP plants.[2]

Methane within biogas can be concentrated via a biogas upgrader to the same standards
as fossil natural gas(which itself has had to go through a cleaning process), and becomes
biomethane. If the local gas network allows for this, the producer of the biogas may
utilize the local gas distribution networks. Gas must be very clean to reach pipeline
quality, and must be of the correct composition for the local distribution network to
accept. Carbon dioxide, water, hydrogen sulfide and particulates must be removed if
present. If concentrated and compressed it can also be used in vehicle transportation.
Compressed biogas is becoming widely used in Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. A
biogas-powered train has been in service in Sweden since 2005.[14][15]

Biogas has also powered automobiles. In 1974, a British documentary film entitled Sweet
as a Nut detailed the biogas production process from pig manure, and how the biogas
fueled a custom-adapted combustion engine.[16][17]

[edit] Benefits
By using biogas, many advantages arise. In North America, utilization of biogas would
generate enough electricity to meet up to three percent of the continent's electricity
expidenture. In addition, biogas could potentially help reduce global warming. Normally,
manure that is left to decompose releases two main gases that cause global warming:
nitrous dioxide and methane. Nitrous oxide warms the atmosphere three hundred and ten
times more than carbon dioxide, while methane only warms the air twenty-one times
more. By converting cow manure into methane biogas via anaerobic digestion, the
millions of cows in the United States would be able to produce one hundred billion
kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power millions of homes across the United States.
In fact, one cow can produce enough manure in one day to generate three kilowatt hours
of electricity; only 2.4 kilowatt hours of electricity are needed to power a single one
hundred watt light bulb for one day.[18] Furthermore, by converting cow manure into
methane biogas instead of letting it decompose, we would be able to reduce global
warming gases by ninety-nine million metric tons or four percent.[19]

[edit] Scope and potential quantities


In the UK, sewage gas electricity production is tiny compared to overall power
consumption - a mere 80 MW of generation, compared to 70 GW on the grid. Estimates
vary but could be a considerable fraction from digestion of manure.[20][clarification needed]

In 2003 the United States consumed 147 trillion BTU of energy from "landfill gas", about
0.6% of the total U.S. natural gas consumption.[21] Methane biogas derived from cow
manure is also being tested in the U.S. According to a 2008 study, collected by the
Science and Children magazine, methane biogas from cow manure would be sufficient to
produce 100 billion kilowatt hours enough to power millions of homes across America.
Furthermore, methane biogas has been tested to prove that it can reduce 99 million metric
tons of greenhouse gas emissions or about 4% of the greenhouse gases produced by the
United States.[22]

In 2007 an estimated 12,000 vehicles were being fueled with upgraded biogas worldwide,
mostly in Europe.[21]

[edit] In the United States


With the many benefits of biogas, it is starting to become a popular source of energy and
is starting to be utilized in the United States more. In Vermont, for example, it is being
used to power a farm. In Sheldon, Vermont Green Dairy Farm has recently started using
its cows to provide power throughout the farm. It all started when the brothers who own
the farm, Bill and Brian Rowell, wanted to make a larger profit. So they decided to use
their cow waste from their one thousand fifty cows to power their farm. In addition, they
have enough power to sell to buyers too. In turn, the Rowell brothers have enough
electricity to power their farm and at least three hundred to three hundred fifty other
homes. In total, the Rowell brothers generate up to two hundred fifty to three hundred
kilowatt hours of electricity per day and receive a huge pay check.[23]

In Hereford, Texas cow manure is being used to power an ethanol power plant. By
switching to methane bio-gas, the ethanol power plant has saved one thousand barrels of
oil a day. Overall, the power plant has reduced transportation costs and will be opening
many more jobs for future power plants that will be relying on biogas.[24]

[edit] In developing nations


Domestic biogas plants convert livestock manure and night soil into biogas and slurry,
the fermented manure. This technology is feasible for small holders with livestock
producing 50 kg manure per day, an equivalent of about 6 pigs or 3 cows. This manure
has to be collectable to mix it with water and feed it into the plant. Toilets can be
connected. Another precondition is the temperature that affects the fermentation process.
With an optimum at 36 C° the technology especially applies for those living in a (sub)
tropical climate. This makes the technology for small holders in developing countries
often suitable.

Simple sketch of household biogas plant

Depending on size and location, a typical brick made fixed dome biogas plant can be
installed at the yard of a rural household with the investment between 300 to 500 US $ in
Asian countries and up to 1400 US $ in the African context. A high quality biogas plant
needs minimum maintenance costs and can produce gas for at least 15–20 years without
major problems and re-investments. For the user, biogas provides clean cooking energy,
reduces indoor air pollution and reduces the time needed for traditional biomass
collection, especially for women and children. The slurry is a clean organic fertilizer that
potentially increases agricultural productivity.

Domestic biogas technology is a proven and established technology in many parts of the
world, especially Asia.[25] Several countries in this region have embarked on large-scale
programmes on domestic biogas, such as China[26] and India. The Netherlands
Development Organisation, SNV,[27] supports national programmes on domestic biogas
that aim to establish commercial-viable domestic biogas sectors in which local companies
market, install and service biogas plants for households. In Asia, SNV is working in
Nepal,[28] Vietnam,[29] Bangladesh,[30] Cambodia,[31] Lao PDR,[32] Pakistan[33] and
Indonesia,[34] and in Africa in Rwanda,[35] Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia,[36] Tanzania,[37]
Uganda and Kenya.

[edit] Rural Dung Sui Gas (Pakistan)/Deenabandhu Model (India)

In Pakistan and India biogas produced from the anaerobic digestion of manure in small-
scale digestion facilities is called gobar gas; it is estimated that such facilities exist in
over two million households in India and in hundreds of thousands in Pakistan,
particularly North Punjab, due to the thriving population of lifestock . The digester is an
airtight circular pit made of concrete with a pipe connection. The manure is directed to
the pit, usually directly from the cattle shed. The pit is then filled with a required quantity
of wastewater. The gas pipe is connected to the kitchen fireplace through control valves.
The combustion of this biogas has very little odour or smoke. Owing to simplicity in
implementation and use of cheap raw materials in villages, it is one of the most
environmentally sound energy sources for rural needs. One type of these system is the
Sintex Digester. Some designs use vermiculture to further enhance the slurry produced by
the biogas plant for use as compost.[38]

The Deenabandhu Model is a new biogas-production model popular in India.


(Deenabandhu means "friend of the helpless.") The unit usually has a capacity of 2 to 3
cubic metres. It is constructed using bricks or by a ferrocement mixture. The brick model
costs approximately 18,000 rupees and the ferrocment model 14,000 rupees, however
India's Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources offers a subsidy of up to 3,500
rupees per model constructed.[citation needed]

[edit] Legislation
The European Union presently has some of the strictest legislation regarding waste
management and landfill sites called the Landfill Directive.[citation needed] The United States
legislates against landfill gas as it contains VOCs. The United States Clean Air Act and
Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) requires landfill owners to estimate
the quantity of non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs) emitted. If the estimated
NMOC emissions exceeds 50 tonnes per year the landfill owner is required to collect the
landfill gas and treat it to remove the entrained NMOCs. Treatment of the landfill gas is
usually by combustion. Because of the remoteness of landfill sites it is sometimes not
economically feasible to produce electricity from the gas. However, countries such as the
United Kingdom and Germany now has legislation in force that provide farmers with
long term revenue and energy security.[39][40]

[edit] Biogas upgrading


Raw biogas produced from digestion is roughly 60% methane and 29% CO2 with trace
elements of H2S, and is not high quality enough if the owner was planning on selling this
gas or using it as fuel gas for machinery. The corrosive nature of H2S alone is enough to
destroy the internals of an expensive plant. The solution is the use of a biogas upgrading
or purification process whereby contaminants in the raw biogas stream are adsorbed or
scrubbed, leaving 98% methane per unit volume of gas. There are four main methods of
biogas upgrading, these include water washing, pressure swing adsorption, selexol
adsorption and chemical treatment.[41] The most prevalent method is water washing where
high pressure gas flows into a column where the carbon dioxide and other trace elements
are scrubbed by cascading water running counter-flow to the gas. This arrangement can
deliver 98% methane with manufacturers guaranteeing maximum 2% methane loss in the
system. It takes roughly between 3-6% of the total energy output in gas to run a biogas
upgrading system.

[edit] Biogas gas-grid injection


Gas-grid injection is the injection of biogas into the methane grid (natural gas grid).
Injections includes biogas:[42] until the breakthrough of micro combined heat and power
two-thirds of all the energy produced by biogas power plants was lost (the heat), using
the grid to transport the gas to customers, the electricity and the heat can be used for on-
site generation [43] resulting in a reduction of losses in the transportation of energy.
Typical energy losses in natural gas transmission systems range from 1–2%. The current
energy losses on a large electrical system range from 5–8%[44].

[edit] See also


Sustainable development portal

Energy portal

• Anaerobic digestion
• Biodegradability
• Bioenergy
• Biofuel
• Biohydrogen
• Landfill gas monitoring
• MSW/LFG (municipal solid waste and landfill gas)
• Natural gas vehicle
• Renewable energy
• Renewable natural gas
• Relative cost of electricity generated by different sources
• Sintex Digester
• Tables of European biogas utilisation
• Waste management

[edit] References
1. ^ National Non-Food Crops Centre. "Anaerobic digestion factsheet", Retrieved
on 2009-03-26
2. ^ a b "Biomethane fueled vehicles the carbon neutral option" Claverton Energy
Conference, October 24th 2008, Bath, UK
3. ^ State Energy Conservation Office (Texas). "Biomass Energy: Manure for
Fuel.", 23 Apr. 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2009.
4. ^ Be Green - Make Gas
5. ^ "Biogas - Bioenergy Association of New Zealand (BANZ)". Bioenergy.org.nz.
2006-11-29. http://www.bioenergy.org.nz/biogas.asp. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
6. ^ LFG energy projects
7. ^ Safety Page, Beginners Guide to Biogas, www.adelaide.edu.au/biogas.
Retrieved 22.10.07.
8. ^ Basic Information on Biogas, www.kolumbus.fi. Retrieved 2.11.07.
9. ^ Juniper Biogas Yield Comparison
10. ^ Richards, B. (1994). "In situ methane enrichment in methanogenic energy crop
digesters". Biomass and Bioenergy 6: 275–274. doi:10.1016/0961-
9534(94)90067-1. edit
11. ^ Richards, B.; Cummings, R.; White, T.; Jewell, W. (1991). "Methods for kinetic
analysis of methane fermentation in high solids biomass digesters". Biomass and
Bioenergy 1: 65–26. doi:10.1016/0961-9534(91)90028-B. edit
12. ^ Tower, P.; Wetzel, J.; Lombard, X. (2006-03). "New Landfill Gas Treatment
Technology Dramatically Lowers Energy Production Costs". Applied Filter
Technology.
http://www.appliedfiltertechnology.com/Userfiles/Docs/AFT_SWANA_2006_Pa
per_Rev1.pdf. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
13. ^ Biogas CHP engine fitted to Anaerobic Digestion Plant
14. ^ Biogas train in Sweden
15. ^ Friendly fuel trains (Oct. 30, 2005) New Straits Times, p. F17.
16. ^ British Film Institute's database
17. ^ View online at National Film Board of Canada
18. ^ State Energy Conservation Office (Texas). "Biomass Energy: Manure for Fuel."
State Energy Conservation Office (Texas). State of Texas, 23 April 2009. Web. 3
October 2009. <http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_biomass-manure.htm>.
19. ^ Webber, Michael E and Amanda D Cuellar. "Cow Power. In the News: Short
News Items of Interest to the Scientific Community." Science and Children os
46.1 (2008): 13. Gale. Web. 1 October 2009.
<http://find.galegroup.com/gtx/retrieve.do?contentSet=IAC-
Documents&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C
%29%3AFQE%3D%28KE%2CNone%2C9%29Cow+Power
%24&sgHitCountType=None&inPS=true&sort=DateDescend&searchType=Basi
cSearchForm&tabID=T002&prodId>.
20. ^ food and agricultural wastes
21. ^ a b What is biogas?, U.S. Department of Energy, 04/13/2010
22. ^ Cuellar, Amanda D and Michael E Webber (2008). "Cow power: the energy
and emissions benefits of converting manure to biogas". Environ. Res. Lett. 3:
034002. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/3/3/034002.
23. ^ Zezima, Katie. "Electricity From What Cows Leave Behind." The New York
Times 23 September 2008, natl. ed.: SPG9. Web. 1 October 2009.
<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24farmers.html>
.
24. ^ State Energy Conservation Office (Texas). "Biomass Energy: Manure for Fuel."
State Energy Conservation Office (Texas). State of Texas, 23 April 2009. Web. 3
October 2009. <http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_biomass-manure.htm>.
25. ^ "Asia Hits the Gas"
26. ^ "Biogas China" in ISIS
27. ^ SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
28. ^ "[Biogas Sector Partnership-Nepal]". Bspnepal.org.np.
http://www.bspnepal.org.np. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
29. ^ "Dự án chương trình khí sinh học cho ngành chăn nuôi Việt Nam".
Biogas.org.vn. http://www.biogas.org.vn. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
30. ^ http://www.idcol.org (click ‘Projects’)
31. ^ "National Biodigester Programme". Nbp.org.kh. 2009-09-29.
http://www.nbp.org.kh. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
32. ^ "Home". Biogaslao.org. http://www.biogaslao.org. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
33. ^ Renewable energy solution for the poor SNV domestic biogas dissemination in
Pakistan
34. ^ Indonesia Domestic Biogas Programme
35. ^ "Renewable Energy ". Snvworld.org.
http://www.snvworld.org/en/countries/rwanda/ourwork/Pages/energy.aspx.
Retrieved 2010-02-21.
36. ^ "Renewable energy ". Snvworld.org.
http://www.snvworld.org/en/countries/ethiopia/ourwork/Pages/energy.aspx.
Retrieved 2010-02-21.
37. ^ SNV Tanzania Tanzania Domestic Biogas Programme
38. ^ Using vermiculture to improve quality of biogas slurry as a compost
39. ^ "CHP | Combined Heat and Power | Cogeneration | Wood Biomass Gasified
Co-generation | Energy Efficiency | Electricity Generation". Alfagy.com.
http://www.alfagy.com/index.php?
option=com_content&view=article&id=77&Itemid=72. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
40. ^ "CHP | Combined Heat and Power | Cogeneration | Wood Biomass Gasified
Co-generation | Energy Efficiency | Electricity Generation". Alfagy.com.
http://www.alfagy.com/index.php?
option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=1&Itemid=70. Retrieved
2010-02-21.
41. ^ An Overview of Biogas Upgrading Technologies
42. ^ Half Britain’s homes could be heated by renewable gas
43. ^ Biogas flows through germany's grid big time
44. ^ Transmission loss

AEBIG; Asociación Española de Biogas

[edit] Further reading


• Updated Guidebook on Biogas Development. United Nations, New York, (1984)
Energy Resources Development Series No. 27. p. 178, 30 cm.

[edit] External links


• An Introduction to Biogas, University of Adelaide
• Biogas from manure and waste products - Swedish case studies
• The largest danish plant Lemvig Biogas – renewable energy and a sound economy
• An overview of biogas purification technologies
• Biogas Bonanza for Third World Development
• Biogas China
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Appropriate Technology

Energy: Biogas
Th
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Photo courtesy of www.energyandminerals.go.ug fr
de
The use of methane gas plants as a source of fuel and fertilizer is a yo
practice only recently introduced in this century. The process of bacterial ea
decomposition has occurred in nature since life began—plants and
animals die and are recycled to sustain life on the planet. In the presence Th
of oxygen, organic material "composts" (undergoes aerobic in
decomposition). When decomposition occurs in the absence of oxygen pr
(anaerobic conditions), methane gas is produced, and the liquid remainder w
is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients. in
so
The natural occurrence of methane (the bubbling gas seen in ponds where
animal manures have been dumped) can be duplicated. Water-tight and
air-tight containers (called "digesters") are built, either as pits lined with
bricks, concrete or stabilized earth (if this can be waterproofed), or as
steel, concrete, or brick tanks. Manures and other organic wastes (after
being suitably diluted) can be stored and processed by either the "batch" or
"continuous" methods. Premixing chambers, digestion tanks and effluent

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• Biogas Home

Biogas
Welcome to the "Beginners Guide to Biogas".

Biogas can provide a clean, easily controlled source of renewable


energy from organic waste materials for a small labour input,
replacing firewoood or fossil fuels (which are becoming more
• Biogas Home expensive as supply falls behind demand). During the conversion
• Basic Biogas process pathogen levels are reduced and plant nutrients made more
• Picture Gallery readily available, so better crops can be grown while existing
• Anaerobic Digestion resources are conserved.
• Safety
• Science Fair Projects Since small scale units can be relatively simple to build and operate
• Poly Digester biogas should be used directly if possible (for cooking, heating,
• Consultants & lighting and absorption refrigeration), since both electricity
Suppliers generation and compression of gas (for storage or use in
• Expert Panel vehicles) use large amounts of energy for a small output of useful
• History energy. This concept is suited to "distributed" systems where waste
• Renewable Energy is treated near the source, and sludge is also reused locally, to
• Peak Oil minimise transport and initial capital cost compared to a
• Other Resources "centralised" system. As the distributed system will need a support
• Personal Background network biogas contributes to the "triple bottom line"; benefiting the
environment, reducing costs and contributing to the social structure.
Further Enquiries
Basic Biogas provides some introductory material, the Safety page
Location: provides some important information, Science Fair Projects and the
Room S116b, Waite Poly Digester pages give ideas about smaller projects and Anaerobic
Main Building Digestion gives a bit more detail and information about larger
Waite Campus projects. If you still have unanswered questions the volunteer
members of the Expert Panel will try to assist.There are also more
Postal Address: links here.
The University of Adelaide
Faculty of Sciences There is a Biogas Course in Germany in September (presented in
Waite Campus English) or you can look at an Introductory Biogas Online Course.
PMB 1, Glen Osmond,
South Australia, 5064 You may like to visit the Biogas Wiki, which includes a list of
AUSTRALIA National/Regional Associations. If you want to add information
related to biogas the wiki is easy to edit with a menu like in Word!
Email Note that you will have to join Wikispaces, for free, and request
membership if you want to contribute more than Comments.
Telephone : +61 8 8303 7880
Facsimile : +61 8 8303 4386

Happy Digesting,

Paul Harris - Homepage

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Biogas
Welcome to the "Beginners Guide to Biogas".

Biogas can provide a clean, easily controlled source of renewable energy from organic
waste materials for a small labour input, replacing firewoood or fossil fuels (which are
becoming more expensive as supply falls behind demand). During the conversion process
pathogen levels are reduced and plant nutrients made more readily available, so better
crops can be grown while existing resources are conserved.

Since small scale units can be relatively simple to build and operate biogas should be
used directly if possible (for cooking, heating, lighting and absorption refrigeration),
since both electricity generation and compression of gas (for storage or use in
vehicles) use large amounts of energy for a small output of useful energy. This concept is
suited to "distributed" systems where waste is treated near the source, and sludge is also
reused locally, to minimise transport and initial capital cost compared to a "centralised"
system. As the distributed system will need a support network biogas contributes to the
"triple bottom line"; benefiting the environment, reducing costs and contributing to the
social structure.

Basic Biogas provides some introductory material, the Safety page provides some
important information, Science Fair Projects and the Poly Digester pages give ideas about
smaller projects and Anaerobic Digestion gives a bit more detail and information about
larger projects. If you still have unanswered questions the volunteer members of the
Expert Panel will try to assist.There are also more links here.
There is a Biogas Course in Germany in September (presented in English) or you can
look at an Introductory Biogas Online Course.

You may like to visit the Biogas Wiki,


which includes a list of
National/Regional Associations. If you
want to add information related to
biogas the wiki is easy to edit with a
menu like in Word! Note that you will
have to join Wikispaces, for free, and
request membership if you want to
contribute moAn Introduction to
BIOGAS
Biogas is generated when bacteria degrade biological material in the absence of oxygen,
in a process known as anaerobic digestion. Since biogas is a mixture of methane (also
known as marsh gas or natural gas, CH4) and carbon dioxide it is a renewable fuel
produced from waste treatment. Anaerobic digestion is basically a simple process carried
out in a number of steps that can use almost any organic material as a substrate - it occurs
in digestive systems, marshes, rubbish dumps, septic tanks and the Arctic Tundra.
Humans tend to make the process as complicated as possible by trying to improve on
nature in complex machines but a simple approach is still possible, as I hope you see in
this website.

Conventional anaerobic digestion has been a "liquid" process, where waste is mixed with
water to facilitate digestion, but a "solid" process is also possible, as occurs in landfil
sites.

As methane is very hard to compress I see its best use as for stationary fuel, rather than
mobile fuel. It takes a lot of energy to compress the gas (this energy is usually just
wasted), plus you have the hazard of high pressure. A variable volume storage (flexible
bag or floating drum are the two main variants) is much easier and cheaper to arrange
than high pressure cylinders, regulators and compressors.

I think biogas is best used directly for cooking/heating, light or even absorption
refrigeration rather than the complication and energy waste of trying to make electricity
from biogas. You can also run pumps and equipment off a gas powered engine rather
than using electricity.

There are many advantages of biogas over wood as a cooking fuel:-

• Less labour than tree felling


• Trees can be retained
• Biogas is a quick, easily controlled fuel
• No smoke or smell (unless there is a leak - then you need to know
anyway!) so reduced eye/respiratory irritation
• Clean pots
• Sludge is a better fertiliser than manure or synthetic fertilisers (and
is cheaper then manufactured products)
• Reduced pathogen transmission compared to untreated waste

For more technical information please go to Anaerobic Digestion.

re than Comments. Detailed information


about anaerobic digestion
To find out about some of the things which influence digester operation (and need to be
considered in design) without getting all messy you may like to look at a computer
MODEL of a Continuous Flow Stirred Tank digester for piggery effluent.

Adoption of biogas technology in India is studied in Mathias Gustavsson's thesis.

See how biogas is produced and used in Costa Rica (an English script is available for the
Spanish narration). You may also find information about biogas on a dairy farm in Costa
Rica interesting (similar setups are found elsewhere, too).

Here is a simple (and cheap!) approach to biogas analysis (assuming the main gases
present are Methane and Carbon Dioxide!). If you get a low CO2 level and still no stable
flame you may have Nitrogen present from an air leak.

Now you are nearly an expert you could also visit

• GTZ for a look around, or else


• the ARTI site from India - great domestic size/scale systems running off food
waste
• biofuelswork is another informative site
• try PRACTICALLY GREEN, one of many commercial suppliers.
• For a low technology, integrated view visit the University of Tropical Agriculture
Foundation.
There are a number of different types of digester in use, http://www.uasb.org/index.htm is
about Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket digesters for dilute wastes.

If you are interested in solid waste digestion this book chapter may be a good starting
point.
It's from: "Biomethanization of the Organic Fraction of Municipal Solid Wastes",
Editor(s): J. Mata-Alvarez, September 2002 · Pages: 336 · ISBN: 1900222140 IWA
Publishing.
"I review in this chapter the most common (full scale) reactor designs used to digest solid
wastes. I tried to combine the scientific and engineering viewpoints in the paper. If you
have difficulties opening or reading the file, please request another copy from coauthor
Willy.Verstraete or from his secretary Christine.Graveels." Contributed by Philippe
Vandevivere.

A simple approach to "solid digestion" has been proposed by Dr Duncan Martin and Mr
Paul Harris.

Also Ben Dearman completed a PhD thesis through Flinders University on the anaerobic
digestion of kitchen waste.

There is lots of information, this book titled Biogas Technology in Nepal: A Sustainable
Source of Energy for Rural People by Mr. Govinda Devkota may be helpful to you.

The AgStar program has information and a comprehensive software model to download.

It is good to start small, how about a home sized project?

There are many years of experience in these posts from Les Gornall (thanks for
permission to use them , Les) -

• Measuring Digester Performance and


• Practical Tests.

For more information try the Other Resources page or

• Combustion information and another view of biogas/biofuels may answer some


more of your questions,
• http://www.biogas.ch/, (Swiss)
• http://www.habmigern2003.info/biogas/Baron-digester/Baron-digester.htm and
• http://www.methane-gas.com/.

There are LOTS of other sites as well, tell me your favourite.

SAFETY PAGE
There are a number of safety issues to be considered when working with a biogas system.

Suggestions for additions or improvements to this brief introduction are most welcome.

This information is provided as a service and no liability can or will be


accepted!

FIRE/EXPLOSION

Methane, which is makes up from 0% to 80% of biogas, forms explosive mixtures in air,
the lower explosive limit being 5% methane and the upper limit 15% methane. Biogas
mixtures containing more than 50 % methane are combustible, while lower percentages
may support, or fuel, combustion. With this in mind no naked flames should be used in
the vicinity of a digester and electrical equipment must be of suitable quality, normally
"explosion proof". Other sources of sparks are any iron or steel tools or other items,
power tools (particularly comutators and brushes), normal electrical switches, mobile
phones and static electricity.

If conducting a flamability test take a small sample well away from the main digester, or
incorporate a flame trap in the supply line, which must be of suitable length (minimum 20
m). View sketches of Flametrap1 and Flametrap2

As biogas displaces air it reduces the oxygen level, restricting respiration, so any digester
area needs to be well ventilated to minimise the risks of fire/explosion and asphyxiation.

DISEASE

As Anaerobic Digestion relys on a mixed population of bacteria of largely unknown


origin, but often including animal wastes, to carry out the waste treatment process care
should be taken to avoid contact with the digester contents and to wash thoroughly after
working around the digester (and particularly before eating or drinking). This also helps
to minimise the spread odours which may accompany the digestion process. The
digestion process does reduce the number of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria,
particularly at higher operating temperatures, but the biological nature of the process
needs to be kept in mind.

ASPHYXIATION

Biogas consists mainly of CH4 and CO2, with low levels of H2S and other gases. Each of
these components has its own problems, as well as displacing oxygen.

CH4 - lighter than air (will collect in roof spaces etc), explosive (see above).

CO2 - heavier than air (will collect in sumps etc), slightly elevated levels affect
respiration rate, higher levels displace oxygen as well.
H2S - (rotten egg gas) destroys olefactory (smelling) tissues and lungs, becomes
odourless as the level increases to dangerous and fatal. More details, an actual case and
detection equipment are available.

Adequate ventilation, suitable precautions and adequate protective equipment will


minimise the dangers associated with biogas, making it a good servant rather than a bad
master.

SUMMARY

Like water, electricity, automobiles and most of life biogas is not completely safe,
but by being aware of the dangers involved you are well on the way to a safe and
happy digestion experience.

© 2010 The University of Adelaide


Last Modified 11/08/2010 Biogas
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