Biogas Plants : A Real Alternative

  5 min 44 sec to read
 Biogas Plants : A Real Alternative

Surprisingly, there are more than 100,000 mini-biogas units in and across Nepal established by cooperatives and individuals and also set up by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre and its partners.

--By Shashi Ranjan

Our country is a big importer of cooking gas or LPG for the home and for commercial use. Since the strike called by the Terai based political parties and the undeclared embargo by India, ideas have been coming to the fore to develop our own energy sources or to look for other international suppliers of fuel. The time has arrived for us to really think about our existing requirements of cooking gas for commercial and household uses. In the wake of the severe scarcity that Nepal faced a couple of months back, discussions on planning to reduce the imports and increasing the production of an alternative cooking gas known as  biogas has taken centre stage these days. 

The above data shows that the requirement of LPG has been increasing 10-15 percent annually. 

Introduction to Bio Gas
In general terms, biogas refers to a mixture of different gases produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. It can be produced from raw materials such as agriculture waste, manure, municipal waste, plants, and sewage along with the green waste or food waste. It can be produced by anaerobic digestion with anaerobic organisms which digest material inside a closed system, or fermentation of biodegradable materials. Technical support is advisory to install commercial biogas plants. While it is a bit complicated to install the plants, once installed, they will give good results and reduce the import of LPG gas. 

Biogas can be produced for household purposes with food waste, feed stock, animal dung or sewage. Meanwhile, on a larger scale, the fuel can be produced from agriculture waste, municipal waste, plants along with other wastes that can be found in large quantities. Moreover, small scale biogas plants for household purposes are simple, low cost and require low levels of maintenance which has been used for decades across the developing countries. Likewise, Industrial applications are designed to process large amounts of feedstock into biogas, which requires well developed logistical systems for feedstock collection and effluent disposal. Because of the costs associated with feedstock collection, the viability of such plants depends on the availability of cheap or free feedstock such as sewage sludge, manure, agricultural residues or organic fractions of municipal solid waste. 

Benefits Associated with Biogas Plants
•    Bio gas is considered to be a renewable source of energy. It is up to us to decide when not to produce the energy.
•    It is also considered as a non-polluting fuel. The production of biogas does not require oxygen, which means that resources are conserved by not using any further fuel.
•    It also reduces the greenhouse effect by utilizing the gases being produced in landfills as forms of energy. This is a major reason why the use of biogas has started to catch on. It recycles most forms of biodegradable waste and works on simple forms of technology.
•    It also uses waste material found in landfills, dump sites and even farms across the country which helps to decrease soil and water pollution.
•    Work opportunities can be created for thousands in these plants. These jobs are a blessing in rural areas, which are the targeted grounds for the use of biogas.
•    Bio gases are easy to set up and require little capital investment on a small scale. In fact, many farms can become self sufficient by utilizing biogas plants and the waste material produced by their livestock on a daily basis. A single cow can provide enough waste material within a day to power a light bulb for an entire day.

Problems in Biogas Production
•    Currently, low per-capita income and a lack of awareness of the benefits of more sustainable fuels are proving to be a barrier. 
•    Financing investments in biogas installations is a problem.
•    The government’s role has not been very effective. Though they are doing their best but much needs to be done. 

What Can Be Done?
The government needs to formulate provisions for hotels, restaurants, military and police camps, hospitals, hostels, household units, farms across the country to install and use biogas plant based on their own capacity of production and consumption.

In the table below, I would like to provide a general view of producing biogas which will in the long run reduce the import of LPG. The average annual demand of biogas is 260,000 metric tons in the country. Nevertheless, with the proper execution of plans, we can produce more than the quantity which can be raised further as per our consumption. 

Surprisingly, there are more than 100,000 mini-biogas units in and across Nepal established by cooperatives and individuals and also set up by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre and its partners. Work has been done over the past two decades with positive results. 

Much work in the biogas sector has been done and appreciated but it needs to be intensified, more target oriented and with better financial planning. 

The government should consider providing subsidies for the installation of such plants which will help us to use the affordable fuel and can make us self-reliant in terms of energy use. Moreover, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre and other partners should focus on how biogas units should be installed for the urban population either through wastage or sewage use. There are many issues regarding the production and use of biogas that can be sorted out with effective planning, implementation and monitoring.

The writer is Managing Director of Ranjan Enterprises which specialised in providing supplies for rural economy.