Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Organic waste such as dead plant and animal material, animal dung, and kitchen waste can be converted into a gaseous fuel called biogas. Biogas originates from biogenic material and is a type of biofuel.
Biogas is produced by the anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biodegradable materials such as biomass, manure, sewage, municipal waste, green waste, plant material, and crops. Biogas comprises primarily methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and may have small amounts of hydrogen sulphide (H2S), moisture and siloxanes.
The gases methane, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide (CO) can be combusted or oxidized with oxygen. This energy release allows biogas to be used as a fuel. Biogas can be used as a fuel in any country for any heating purpose, such as cooking. It can also be used in anaerobic digesters where it is typically used in a gas engine to convert the energy in the gas into electricity and heat. Biogas can be compressed, much like natural gas, and used to power motor vehicles. In the UK, for example, biogas is estimated to have the potential to replace around 17% of vehicle fuel. Biogas is a renewable fuel, so it qualifies for renewable energy subsidies in some parts of the world. Biogas can also be cleaned and upgraded to natural gas standards when it becomes biomethane.
- 1 Production
- 2 Composition
- 3 Benefits
- 4 Applications
- 5 Legislation
- 6 Development around the world
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
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 using 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. There are two key processes: Mesophilic and Thermophilic digestion. In experimental work at University of Alaska Fairbanks, a 1000-litre digester using psychrophiles harvested from "mud from a frozen lake in Alaska" has produced 200–300 litres of methane per day, about 20–30 % of the output from digesters in warmer climates.
Landfill gas is produced by wet organic waste decomposing under anaerobic conditions in a landfill. 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. The methane contained within biogas is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is 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.
Typical composition of biogas 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 0–0
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% methane,  which for reactors with free liquids can be increased to 80-90% methane using in-situ gas purification techniques As-produced, biogas also contains water vapor. The fractional volume of water vapor is a function of biogas temperature; correction of measured gas volume for both water vapor content and thermal expansion is easily done via a simple mathematic algorithm which yields the standardized volume of dry biogas.
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.
When biogas is used, many advantages arise. In North America, utilization of biogas would generate enough electricity to meet up to three percent of the continent's electricity expenditure. In addition, biogas could potentially help reduce global climate change. Normally, manure that is left to decompose releases two main gases that cause global climate change: nitrous dioxide and methane. Nitrous dioxide (NO2) warms the atmosphere 310 times more than carbon dioxide and methane 21 times more than carbon dioxide. 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. 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.
The 30 million rural households in China that have biogas digesters enjoy 12 benefits: saving fossil fuels, saving time collecting firewood, protecting forests, using crop residues for animal fodder instead of fuel, saving money, saving cooking time, improving hygienic conditions, producing high-quality fertilizer, enabling local mechanization and electricity production, improving the rural standard of living, and reducing air and water pollution.
Biogas can be utilized for electricity production on sewage works, 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.
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.
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 absorbed or scrubbed, leaving 98% methane per unit volume of gas. There are four main methods of biogas upgrading, these include water washing, pressure swing absorption, selexol absorption, and amine gas treating. 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 could 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.
Biogas gas-grid injection
Gas-grid injection is the injection of biogas into the methane grid (natural gas grid). Injections includes biogas: 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  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%.
Biogas in transport
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. Biogas also powers automobiles and 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. In 2007, an estimated 12,000 vehicles were being fueled with upgraded biogas worldwide, mostly in Europe.
The European Union presently has some of the strictest legislation regarding waste management and landfill sites called the Landfill Directive. 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 have legislation in force that provides farmers with long-term revenue and energy security.
Development around the world
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 2003, the United States consumed 147 trillion BTU of energy from "landfill gas", about 0.6% of the total U.S. natural gas consumption. 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.
In Vermont, for example, biogas generated on dairy farms around the state is included in the CVPS Cow Power program. The Cow Power program is offered by Central Vermont Public Service Corporation as a voluntary tariff. Customers can elect to pay a premium on their electric bill, and that premium is passed directly to the farms in the program. In Sheldon, Vermont, Green Mountain Dairy has provided renewable energy as part of the Cow Power program. It all started when the brothers who own the farm, Bill and Brian Rowell, wanted to address some of the manure management challenges faced by dairy farms, including manure odor, and nutrient availability for the crops they need to grow to feed the animals. They installed an anaerobic digester to process the cow and milking center waste from their nine hundred and fifty cows to produce renewable energy, a bedding to replace sawdust, and a plant friendly fertilizer. The energy and environmental attributes are sold. On average, the system run by the Rowell brothers produces enough electricity to power three hundred to three hundred fifty other homes. The generator capacity is about three hundred kiloWatts.
In Hereford, Texas, cow manure is being used to power an ethanol power plant. By switching to methane biogas, 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.
In the United Kingdom
There are currently around 60 non-sewage biogas plants in the UK, most are on-farm, but some larger facilities exist off-farm, which are taking food and consumer wastes.
On the 5th October 2010, biogas was injected into the UK gas grid for the first time. Sewage from over 30,000 Oxfordshire homes is sent to Didcot sewage treatment works, where it is treated in an anaerobic digestor to produce biogas, which is then cleaned to provide gas for approximately 200 homes.
Germany is Europe's biggest biogas producer  as it is the market leader in biogas technology. In 2010 there were 5,905 biogas plants operating throughout the whole country, in which Lower Saxony, Bavaria and the eastern federal states are the main regions. Most of these plants are employed as power plants. Usually the biogas plants are directly connected with a CHP which produces electric power by burning the bio methane. The electrical power is then fed into the public power grid. In 2010 the total installed electrical capacity of these power plants was 2,291 MW. The electricity supply was approximately 12.8 TWh which is 12.6 per cent of the total generated renewable electricity. Biogas in Germany is primarily extracted by the co-fermentation of energy crops (In German science mostly the term ‘NawaRo’ is used that means ‘nachwachsende Rohstoffe’ = renewable resources) mixed with excrements or rather manure, the main crop utilized is corn. Furthermore bio waste and industrial and agricultural residues such as waste from the food industry are expended. Therefore biogas production in Germany differs highly from the methods of production in the UK with regards to the selection of the raw materials that biogas is extracted from, because mainly landfill gas is used in the UK's biogas plants.
Biogas production in Germany has developed rapidly over the last 20 years. The main reason for this development is the legally created frameworks. Governmental support of renewable energies started at the beginning of the 1990s with the Law on Electricity Feed (StrEG). This law guaranteed the producers of energy from renewable sources the feed into the public power grid, thus the power companies were forced to take all produced energy from independent private producers of green energy. In 2002 the Law on Electricity Feed was replaced by the Renewable Energy Source Act (EEG). This law even guaranteed a fixed compensation for the produced electric power over 20 years. The amount of ca. 0.08 Euro gave in particular framers the opportunity to become an energy supplier and gaining a further source of income in the same place. The German agricultural biogas production was given a further push in 2004 by implementing the so-called NawaRo-Bonus. This is a special bonus payment given for the usage of renewable resources i.e. energy crops. In 2007 the German government stressed its intention to invest further effort and support in improving the renewable energy supply to provide an answer on growing climate challenges and increasing oil prices by the ‘Integrated Climate and Energy Programme’.
This continual trend of renewable energy promotion induces a number of challenges facing the management and organisation of renewable energy supply that has also several impacts on the biogas production. The first challenge to be noticed is the high area-consuming of the biogas electric power supply. In 2011 energy crops for biogas production consumed an area of circa 800,000 ha in Germany. This high demand of agricultural areas generates new competitions with the food industries that did not exist yet. Moreover new industries and markets were created in predominately rural regions entailing different new players with an economic, political and civil background. Their influence and acting has to be governed to gain all advantages this new source of energy is offering. Finally biogas will furthermore play an important role in the German renewable energy supply if good governance is focused.
In the Indian subcontinent
In Pakistan, India, and bangladesh 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 livestock. It has become popular source of fuel in many parts of Nepal. 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.. In order to create awareness and associate the people interested in biogas, an association "Indian Biogas Association" (www.biogasindia.org) is formed. The “Indian Biogas Association” aspires to be a unique blend of; nationwide operators, manufacturers and planners of biogas plants, and representatives from science and research. The association was founded in 2010 and is now ready to start mushrooming. The sole motto of the association is “propagating Biogas in a sustainable way”.
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. In India, the brick model costs slightly more than the ferrocment model; however, India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy offers some subsidy per model constructed.
In Pakistan, PAK-Energy Solution from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore has taken the most innovative and responsible initiatives in biogas technology. In this regard, the company is also awarded by 1st prize in "Young Entrepreneur Business Plan Competition" jointly organized by Punjab Govt. & LCCI and "Battle of Business Giants" in Techno'Fest 11. The company is aiming to install 70,000 biogas plants in next 3 years. They have designed and developed Uetians Hybrid Model, in which they have combined fixed dome and floating drums and Uetians Triplex Model. Both of these designs have been innovated first time in the world. 10 years of experience of an expert team of young engineers & entrepreneurs has put together in research & development along with senior Ph.D advisory board.
Moreover, Pakistan Dairy Development Company has also taken an initiative to develop this kind of alternative source of energy for Pakistani farmers. Biogas is now running diesel engines, gas generators, kitchen ovens, geysers, and other utilities in Pakistan. In Nepal, the government provides subsidies to build biogas plant.
The Chinese have been experimenting with the applications of biogas since 1958. Around 1970, China had installed 6,000,000 digesters in an effort to make agriculture more efficient. During the last years the technology has met high growth rates.
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.
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. Several countries in this region have embarked on large-scale programmes on domestic biogas, such as China and India. The Netherlands Development Organisation, SNV, 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, Vietnam, Bangladesh, , Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Pakistan and Indonesia, and in Africa; Rwanda, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Benin and Cameroon.
- Anaerobic digestion
- Landfill gas monitoring
- MSW/LFG (municipal solid waste and landfill gas)
- Natural gas
- Renewable energy
- Renewable natural gas
- Relative cost of electricity generated by different sources
- Tables of European biogas utilisation
- Thermal hydrolysis
- Waste management
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- American Biogas Council
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- Biogas Videos on YouTube
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- Biogas from manure and waste products - Swedish case studies
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- An overview of biogas purification technologies
- Biogas Bonanza for Third World Development
- Biogas China
- Small Scale Biogas Plants
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