Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Biogas: Hastening Waste

Anaerobic Digestion—Biogas Plant Applications

By Illig (E. Thomas)
Amidst concerns as interrelated, albeit disparate, as rising coastal temperatures and fossil fuel consumption—and their collective impact on the price of a pound of sockeye salmon—an environmentally progressive energy source is making haste of common waste.

Enter biogas, the bacterial degradation or anaerobic digestion (AD) of biological material in the absence of oxygen (see Biogas). Methane and carbon dioxide combined to produce a renewable fuel source from waste treatment. Biogas now propels Swedish railways and buses, provides smoke and ash-free cooking and lighting for over 2 million Indian kitchens and boosts industrial plant efficiencies in Switzerland. Even an overcrowded Rwandan prison is now powered by biogas reconstituted from inmate fecal matter (see Cyrus Farivar's recent article on Wired.com), effectively reducing fuel costs by some 65% while simultaneously mitigating the pollution of nearby water supplies.

An emergent energy source generated from human or animal waste, boasting lower carbon dioxide emissions than traditional fossil fuels, reduced capital expenditures, no foul odor and the genuine creation of something useful from something inherently useless? In today's maelstrom of decomposing debates over what to do about the economics of environmental housekeeping, AD may indeed provide refreshing alternatives.

Other Rwandan prison biogas links
• Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) Rwandan prison biogas project 2005 Ashden Award finalist
• 30 June 2005 BBC article Rwanda award for 'sewage' cooking
• A word from Emeka Okafor of the Timbuktu Chronicles


Ted Triteman said...

Mr. Thomas, I read with interest your treatise on Biogas, an apparent panacea for mankind's energy and conscience-salving needs. It really is a versatile system. Reminds me of the windmills that harness the most elusive energy source and create electricity while also killing spotted owls and golden eagles! Just waiting for the other shoe to drop -- into the manure! It'll probably turn out that the human body requires a vital enzyme that shuts off when the atmosphere's methane concentration drops below a certain level! Such is life in the omniverse.

Anonymous said...

Green, no, Yellow Technology
Brought to you by Cummins UK

In Winchester UK, sheep urine is collected from local farms, refined into pure urea and stored in tanks at the back of buses where it is sprayed into the vehicle's exhaust fumes.

The urea's ammonia acts as a catalytic converter, reacting with nitrous oxides in the exhaust fumes to create clean steam.

Not only are they cleaning up the environment, they've launched a cottage industry creating sheep colostomy bags.