HELP – O hand in setting-up standards for bio-gas plants


By Ifham Nizam

Human and Environmental Links Progressive Organization (HELP-O)has initiated a project to assess the capacity of bio gas in Climate Change mitigation and adaptation and has introduced the most effective standards for bio gas plants, in a Navy camp, with quality parameters, with funding from UNDP’s GEF/SGP and in partnership with government and non-governmental organizations.

HELP-O Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Chathura Welivitiya told The Island’s Financial Review that the camp was facing a major problem due to sewerage waste, and releasing of it to the Kala Oya.

The project commenced when the Navy requested for technical support and the HELP-O team started with a water treatment plant.

"The good news is that with the assistance of Nellikulam Navy Camp Commander Kosala Weerasuriya and team we were able go for a new model mixing Indian and Chinese expertise," he added.

According to the Climate Change vulnerable map of Sri Lanka, Puttalam area has been identified as critical. Accumulating waste rapidly was an important fact in impacting Climate Change in that area.

"To complete one of the key activities of the project we selected the major waste generating point in Nellikulam Navy Camp (Rapid Action Boat Squadron Headquarters) to construct a 35m3 biogas plant," he said.

Amounts of organic waste from the camp were a good source for biogas plant feeding. Effort of this biogas plant is to reduce the open dumping waste amount per day & reduce the emission of methane to the air. Ultimate object was to assess the level of contribution from biogas plant for Climate Change mitigation & adaptation.

Nellikulam navy camp has a workforce of more than 300 officers and others. The camp accumulates 3000 kilos of food waste per day.

‘In addition, more than 2000 litres of sewerage water over flows thereby creating unpleasant environment within the camp. Nearly 5000 liters of waste water is going underground and methane emission is very high as a result of toilet water overflowing and due to other open sources of waste, he said.

As an environmental sensitive area navy camp premises were facing a number of environmental problems due to the difficulties in waste management. Navy had to bear high cost for removing sludge twice in two days. And they also had to spend dearly on LP gas usage for cooking purposes.

To find a sustainable solution for all environmental, economic and social problems HELP-O introduced the biogas technology to find multiple benefits while addressing the waste matter. After implementing a biogas plant within the camp it could reduce 2000-3000kg and 10000-20000 liters of waste water.

"As a result of it there is 300-600m3 biogas production per month. This production was support to save the cost nearly Rs.40,000 per month for LP gas usage for cooking purposes and also saved the cost of waste transport from the navy camp to the dump site. As environmental benefit this waste management practice is helping to reduce the 300-600m3 methane emission per day," says Commanding Medical Officer Duminda Samarawickrema.

He says in addition to that they were using organic fertilizer for organic cultivation and organic harvest.

He added: "We do not have to spend on vegetables and it prepares healthy food for all. Other most important factor is that social encouragement to adapt this technology as a multi beneficial sustainable solution for critical environmental problem. Biogas technology will help to minimize climate change while waste management, energy generating, emission reduction and organic fertilizer for cultivations."

With this innovative effort within the Nellikulam navy camp it was now converting into a "Nature Friendly Camp", a first in Sri Lanka.

They are practicing attractive strategies to improve the environment condition of the camp. Tree planting is one of the creative strategies and when one officer goes on leave they have to come back with two plants to plant within the camp.

Other strategy is nobody could use plastic and polythene within the premises and even bringing plastic and polythene to the navy camp is also prohibited.

There is no doubt that the implementation of the organic waste treatment biogas plant will be of great benefit not only to those premises but also to the entire world. The benefits will be in the form of increased financial empowerment, job creation, improved living stands for the people and improved environmental health in the place, he says.

It satisfies all fundamental priorities: sustainable development, agriculture and safe development in social, environmental, economic and environment.

Methane emission from domestic waste is a major cause of Climate Change. In order to mitigate the climate change this methane emission can be controlled and can be used for the generation of energy. But to do so a successful fault free bio gas model has to be invented. HELP-O in this context tries to link all the bio gas users and consultants to use all available knowledge in building perfect models. Green energy village concept is being developed which is a self -sustaining bio gas based village concept which relies on bio gas for energy requirements.

Welivitiya answers some of our queries

What is biogas?

Biogas is a byproduct of the decomposition of organic matter by anaerobic bacteria. Biogas is typically composed of 60% methane and 40% CO2. It is similar to natural gas which is composed of 99% methane. Biogas is a clean and renewable energy that may be substituted to natural gas to cook, to produce vapour, hot water or to generate electricity. This is one of green house gas that UN has identified.

How does it work?

Organic waste is put into a sealed tank called a digester (or bioreactor) where it is heated and agitated. You have to insert organic waste with water with 1:1 ratio. In the absence of oxygen anaerobic bacteria consume the organic matter to multiply and produce biogas.

What type of waste produces biogas?

Any organic waste has the ability to produce biogas: human excreta, manure, animal slurry, fruit and vegetable waste, slaughterhouse waste, meat packing waste, dairy factory waste, brewery and distillery waste, and etc .Fiber rich wastes like wood, leaves, etc. make poor feedstock for digesters as they are difficult to digest.

How much biogas can I get out of my waste?

The amount of biogas you can extract from your organic waste depends on the waste itself and the design of the digester system. Some digesters can yield 20 m3 of biogas per tone of waste while others can yield as much as 800 m3 per tone. It all depends on waste quality, digester design and proper operation of the system.

Where is biogas produced?

Biogas is normally produced in nature by the anaerobic degradation of organic waste in soil, marshes, ocean, etc. Biogas is also produced in landfills where organic food waste degrades in anaerobic conditions. Biogas can be produced in anaerobic digesters. These are equipment (tanks) providing full control of the process and ensuring full biogas recovery.

Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas, isn’t it stupid to produce biogas?

Methane has a greenhouse gas (GHG) heating factor 21 times higher than CO2.Combustion of biogas converts methane into CO2 and reduces the GHG impact by over 20 times. By extracting methane out of waste and using it to produce heat and/or electricity we ensure that the waste will not degrade in an open environment therefore reducing direct methane atmospheric emissions. Moreover, the energy provided by the biogas is likely to displace fossil fuel which is the main contributor to GHG emissions. Biogas energy is considered carbon neutral, since carbon emitted by its combustion comes from carbon fixed by plants (natural carbon cycle).

How much energy is in biogas?

Each cubic meter (m3) of biogas contains the equivalent of 6 kWh of calorific energy. However, when we convert biogas to electricity, in a biogas powered electric generator, we get about 2 kWh of useable electricity, and the rest turns into heat which can also be used for heating applications. 2 kWh is enough energy to power a 100 W light bulb for 20 hours or a 2000W hair dryer for 1 hour.

What happens to the waste after digestion?

Despite popular belief, the amount of waste going in the digester is almost equal to the amount coming out. However the quality of the waste is altered for the better (less odor, better fertilizer, organic load reduced, less polluting). Waste coming out of the digester can be separated (solid/liquid): the solid part can be composted and the liquid part can be used as liquid fertilizer or can be treated further and disposed.

So why make biogas?

It always costs money to get rid of waste. If it doesn’t cost you anything, you are probably creating an environmental hazard. By putting a digester in your waste treatment chain you introduce a potential revenue center.

For example:

On a farm the manure is not considered to be a waste but a fertilizer. By installing a digester the farmer can profit from the biogas by reducing odors and enhancing the fertilizing value of the manure. In an agro-food industry the digester can be used as a primary waste treatment unit where the biogas is used to offset some energy cost in the plant and to reduce the size of the secondary waste treatment.

How difficult is it to run a biogas plant?

A biogas plant is like an animal. You must feed it every day and feed it the right stuff in the right amount. Just like an animal if you don’t take good care of it, it will become ill and will yield poor results.

Where have you installed biogas plants up to now?

The programme has been designed to solve the energy problem and waste problem of many sectors in Sri Lanka as follows:--

*  Domestic Level

*  Community Level

*  Hotels

* Hospitals

*  Forces Camps

*  Government Institutions

*  Religious Places

*  Prisons

*  Factories

*  Training Centers

* Significances of biogas plants

*  Able to implement proper waste management system

*  Decrease methane gas emission to air

*  Decrease the environment pollution

*  Decrease the diseases which began from the waste

* Decrease the LP gas usage & use environmentally friendly energy

*  Able to get good & effective organic fertilizer & use to cultivation

*  Help to decrease global warming

*  Easy to use & no threat about highly flammable

*  Able to get maximum result from the waste

*  Able to generate electricity from the biogas

Where we can install biogas units

*  To manage domestic waste, kitchen waste, waste water

*  To manage animal husbandry waste

*  To manage waste in hotels

*  To manage bakery & vegetable market waste

* To manage fish market waste

*  To manage urban waste

* To manage toilet waste

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