Biogas: Answer to energy sufficiency?

As our dependence on fossil fuel consumption increases, it may be wise to explore the benefits of alternatives like biogas, which will contribute greatly towards achieving the national aim of reducing poverty levels, particularly in the rural parts of the country, by increasing livestock development and agriculture. In the long run, this will also help reduce impact of biomass resource depletion.

Bhutan tried biogas production in the 1980s but gaps in the attempt like lack of follow up, training and related services impeded its growth and it eventually failed. But, push for renewable energy initiative has never been so urgent than we feel today.

Good thing about biogas is that one can reduce one’s cooking fuel expenses by almost 80 percent. A household can, for example, save about 2,000kg firewood, 255.5 litres of kerosene, 164.25kg LPG and about 1,460 Kwh of electricity per year. And the best part is, it reduces indoor air pollution caused by incomplete combustion of traditional fuels.

A biogas system will also help convert organic household waste into gas for cooking and lighting. Waste leftovers and vegetables and fruit peels can be used to produce energy, thereby making it easier for us to address the growing problem of managing waste, particularly in the urban areas.

Our aim, though, has to be to encourage wider population beyond those in the rural areas to incorporate the use of biogas as essential fuel for domestic use that is environmentally sustainable. In the rural areas, bio-slurry (mixture of dung and water which enters the biogas plant in semi liquid form) could help increase agricultural productivity by improving soil structure, water retention capacity and controlling fungal pests and insects infestation on vegetables as natural repellant.

The idea is also good for the economy and job creation. We can incorporate biogas with other livestock and agriculture programmes. The many dairy groups in the country could supply animal waste and private sector could be involved in the production of appliances and accessories.

We are increasingly impelled to seek cheaper and sustainable energy for domestic purposes. Biogas gives us the hope of becoming energy-sufficient.

2 replies
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    Exactly that’s where I have my enquiries regarding biogas. It may be due to my lack of technical knowledge or just lack of awareness, but I am not very sure about energy sufficiency from biogas in terms of calorific values of heat produced. And we need quality heat as major consumption of biogas energy happens in household cooking.

    Moreover, household organic waste is mentioned in the post and we all know organic waste as a raw material for biogas production. Same organic waste also get used in production of organic manure or non-chemical fertilisers. And in today’s time, everyone wants to eat and drink organic. I was furious when I came to know that the water purifier in my kitchen is not producing ‘organic drinking water’. Well…that’s just a bad joke. But we value organic vegetables and agricultural products today and we know the ill affects of toxic chemicals used as fertilisers or in treating of agricultural products when a proper procedure is not maintained.

    But that alone can’t put a question mark on the brighter side of biogas production where we want it to replace mainly firewood usage in cooking needs in a rural setup. And every technology used has its own advantages and disadvantages. And even when we talk fossil fuels, a considerable portion of the price comes from cost incurred in handling, storage and transportation of fuels and its sources.

    It’s good if a rural household produces enough organic waste to be utilised in biogas production. But if one wants to develop an organic waste handling, storage and transportation model to sustain a biogas plant; I have my slight doubts on that very energy sufficiency part.

    • irfan
      irfan says:

      One more point I want to add on calorific value of biogas as I have just done some basic online search. It says that biogas is usually 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide and methane percentage decides quality of biogas produced heat or energy.

      Calorific value of methane is around 9000 kJ/kg while that of air dried firewood starts from around 15000 kJ/kg and goes up to 25000 kJ/kg plus values for charcoal. But when it comes to firewood, a lot depends on density of the wood. While high density wood with more than 800 kg per cubic meter density produces better calorific values, low density wood in the range of 400 to 600 kg per cubic meter should be producing less heat.

      And for some reasons, Bhutan is consuming too much of firewood to be honest when you look at those statistics even though Bhutanese wood is more or less of lower to medium density only.

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