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AEN 3200 Farm Practice Course

Biogas Production and Utilization


1. Introduction
1.1 What is biogas?
1.2 Composition of biogas
1.3 Calorific value of biogas
1.4 What can biogas do?
1.5 Why do we need biogas?

2. Is there any Potential to Produce Biogas in Sri Lanka?

2.1 Livestock byproducts
2.2 Municipal solid wastes
2.3 Human excreta
2.4 Kitchen wastes
2.5 Abattoirs
2.6 Agricultural byproducts
2.7 Industrial wastes

3. Important Definitions…
3.1 Anaerobic digestion (degradation)
3.2 Methanogenesis
3.3 Biomethanation
3.4 Organic Matter

4. History of Biogas

5. How is Biogas Produced?

5.1 Microbial process of biogas production
5.2 Microbes involved in anaerobic digestion
5.2.1 Hydrolytic fermentative microorganisms
5.2.2 Acidogenic fermentative microorganisms
5.2.3 Methanogenic fermentative microorganisms

6. Factors Affecting Biomethanation

6.1 Important factors
6.1.1 Anaerobiosis
6.1.2 Temperature
6.1.3 pH
6.1.4 Substrate composition
6.1.5 C/N ratio
6.1.6 Micronutrients
6.1.7 Toxins and inhibitors
6.1.8 Hydraulic retention time
6.1.9 Total solids
6.2 Essential requirements for anaerobic digestion

7. Biogas Production
7.1 Compounds that can produce biogas
7.2 Raw materials suitable for biomethanation
7.3 Degradability of organic compounds

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8. Digester for Biogas Production

8.1 Parts of a digester
8.1.1 Digester
8.1.2 Gasholder
8.1.3 Piping system
8.1.4 Inlet and outlet
8.2 Types of digesters
8.2.1 Based on origin
8.2.2 Based on dome
8.2.3 Based on the way of putting feeding materials

9. Utilization of Biogas
9.1 Major uses of biogas
9.1.1 Biogas for cooking
9.1.2 Biogas for lighting
9.1.3 Biogas for engines
9.2 Treatment of biogas
9.3 Storage of biogas

10. Design of a Biogas Plant

11. Advantages and Environmental Aspects of Anaerobic Digestion

11.1 Advantages of anaerobic digestion
11.2 Environmental aspects of biogas technology
11.3 Uses of digested slurry


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1. Introduction

Biogas production has several advantages in terms of economically as well as

environmentally. Therefore, it has to be very important to know about production and
utilization of this environmentally friendly technology. This manual explains the most
of important aspects of biogas production and utilization.

1.1 What is biogas?

Biogas is a mixture of gases produced by microorganisms under anaerobic
degradation (digestion) of organic water. Major component of biogas is methane.
Methane is a combustible gas and it can be used for energy generation.

Composition of biogas

Methane (CH4) 50% - 70%

Carbon dioxide (CO2) 25% - 40%
Various other gases (H2S, NH3, H2O vapour) 0% - 5%

In addition to above gases N2, CO, O2, and H2 slight concentrations occasionally
present in biogas.

Biogas is often named according to its origin. Biogas is named as landfill gas when
they originate from landfill sites and named as sewage gas when they originate from
sewage sludge.

1.3 Calorific value of biogas

The calorific value of biogas varies according to its percentage of methane since
methane is the major component of biogas that can produce energy. Other
constituents do not produce energy and they absorb energy, which are produced by
the combustion of biogas.

The calorific value of pure methane is 36000kJ/m3. Each 10% of methane can
change the calorific value by 3600kJ/m3. For example, calorific value of biogas
containing of 70% of methane is 25200kJ/m3. The actual calorific value of biogas is a
function of its methane percentage, pressure and temperature. The actual values are
very important parameter for the performance of the engines, which are running on

1.4 What can biogas do?

It can easily be used as an energy source especially for cooking, lighting, generating
electricity and motive power. In addition, digested material, which comes out from
the digesters, can be used as organic manure and there are various beneficial
effects to environment in biogas production.

1.5 Why do we need biogas?

Production of biogas is a process of generation of renewable energy and a process
of waste management as well.

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Energy is very important for the development of a country. With the development, the
demand for energy is also increasing. And also increase of population makes high
demand on energy. Therefore, we have to spend lot of money for importing the
petroleum since Sri Lanka do not have fossil fuel. Although we use biomass for
major energy source, lots of petroleum fuels are needed for industries and to
generate electricity. The energy sources and their contribution and the sectors of
energy usage and their percentages are given below.

Sources of Energy Contribution %

Biomass 70
Petroleum 25
Hydropower 05

Consumption Category Consumption %

Domestic 65
Industry 13
Other 22
Table 01: Sources of energy and consumption

Almost all the biomass energy is used for household purposes, especially cooking.
The limited amount of biomass is used for industries such as bricks & tile, tea,
rubber, coconut, etc. Use of biomass as an energy source is compelled to increase
deforestation. Therefore, use of biogas as an energy source for household purposes
reduce the deforestation of the country.

In year 2000, cost of petroleum imports was Rs 67187 million and it is considerably
high when compared with national income. Considerable amount of petroleum
(basically LP gas) is also used for cooking and it can be replaced by biogas. As such
the use of biogas save the national income, which is needed to import petroleum

Uses of firewoods in unventilated kitchens create health problems in housewives due

to inhalation of unidentified substances in smokes that are produced by burning of
biomass. But biogas burners do not produce other gases than carbon dioxide.
Therefore, use of biogas improves the health of the housewives.

Methane is a green house gas by which increase the global temperature 25 times
more than carbon dioxides does. As such production of methane is not
environmentally friendly and it can cause to increase global temperature. The
estimated anthropogenic green house effect is 15% from methane and 60% from
carbon dioxide. The atmospheric methane concentration is increasing at a rate of
0.8-1.0 % per year. The almost all methane emissions are from low land paddy
fields, ruminant excreta and landfill sites. Ruminant excreta naturally produce
methane and it increases the methane concentration in the atmosphere. But if we
can produce methane from animal excreta in control condition and it can be used for
energy purposes. Then methane emission to atmosphere is reduced and decreases
the global worming. Lowland paddy cultivation is also one reason to increase
methane emission to atmosphere. It has been found that emission of methane from
paddy cultivation varies from 20-150Tg per year. And also researches showed that
methane emission from paddy fields is higher after harvesting due to degrading of

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straw at the field. Therefore, if we can use straw for biogas production methane
emission can be reduced and useful energy could be generated. In the same way,
the organic wastes, which are a large part of land filling, can be used for biogas
production and it will also reduce the emission of methane to the atmosphere.

Conventional energies such as petroleum, coal and LP gases are not unlimited. The
estimated recovable years for petroleum, coal and gases are 43, 232 & 65 years
respectively. Therefore, it is beneficial to find out good sources of renewable
energies for our requirements. In considering Sri Lanka almost all hydropower
capabilities has already been used and wind and biomass energy sources, as
renewable energy is a good option.

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Is there any Potential to Produce Biogas in Sri Lanka?

The biogas production basically depends on the availability of substrates that can go
through anaerobic digestion. Since Sri Lanka is an agricultural country there are so
many good sources of substrates.

2.1 Livestock byproducts

Cattle, buffalo, pig and poultry are the major groups of livestock that can produce
good substrates for biogas production. In 1995 statistics shows that cattle, buffalo,
pigs and poultry population in the country is 1704000, 764000, 87000 and 9573000
in numbers, respectively. Therefore, production potential of biogas in Sri Lanka is
very high. Cattle and buffalo rearing in open space, especially dry zone farmers, is
the major problem for collecting of cow dung that badly affect to the biogas
production. Use of total available animal excreta can generate 27782400MJ of
energy per day (@ 252MJ per cubic meter of biogas). This value is equivalent to
86.82MW of electricity.

2.2 Municipal solid wastes

In most town areas the waste disposal is a big problem. The urban wastes contain
more than 80% of organic wastes, which can easily be used for biogas production.
This helps to make pleasant and healthier environment in urban areas.

The total availability of solid wastes in Sri Lanka is about 2425MT/day (Ministry of
environment, 1996). The production rate may vary with population growth rate and
economic changes. As a guide value, waste production in low-income countries is
0.4kg/person/day; middle-income countries 0.5-0.9kg/person/day and industrialized
countries 0.7-1.8kg/person/day.

The amount of organic wastes that can be obtained from municipal solid wastes in
Sri Lanka is about 1940T/day (if organic fraction of MSW is 0.8). The energy
potential that could be generated from MSW through biogas production is 101.5MW
of electricity equivalent.

2.3 Human excreta

Human excreta are good source but production of biogas using human wastes is not
a culturally accepted in Sri Lanka. And handling is also a problem. By diverting toilet
outlet directly to digester can prevent handling practice. Digested wastes coming
from digester do not have any harmful organisms and they all were destroyed due to
high temperature in the digester.

Total potential of biogas production is about 518000m3/day, which is equivalent to

40.8MW of electricity.

2.4 Kitchen wastes

Kitchen wastes could also easily be used for biogas production but available amount
of wastes in a single kitchen is very small and they only do not enough for biogas
production. However, kitchen wastes generated from hostels, hospitals, factories,
etc., can easily be used for biogas generation. The biogas production rate is 93L/kg

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with a 30 days retention time from a conventional Indian type digester. The methane
content is observed as 58%.

2.5 Abattoirs
Abattoirs produce a variety of wastes such as blood, soft offal, meat, tallow, bone
meal, etc., and liquid effluents at cleaning operations. These fractions could also be
used but potential is not exactly known.

2.6 Agricultural by products

Lots of agricultural by products can be used for biogas production. Since Sri Lanka
cultivates rice, the rice straw can be used as substrates for biogas production. It is
estimated that the rice straw production is about 2000000MT per annum. Most of this
straw is burnt removing vast amount of nutrients from the field. However, use of rice
straw as a raw material for biogas has several benefits, energy generation and
production of enriched manure as well as avoiding of releasing methane from paddy
fields by uncontrolled anaerobic digestion.

Potential energy generation from rice straw is about 64MW electricity equivalent (use
of 100% of straw).

2.7 Industrial wastes

Wastes and wastewater coming from industries such as beverages, food, milk,
sugar, rubber, coconut, etc., can be used. The potential of energy generation from
these sectors are high.

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3. Important Definitions…

3.1 Anaerobic digestion (degradation)

Anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic matter is transformed into
methane or reduced organic components such as ethanol, lactic acid etc, by the
microorganism in the absence of oxygen (air). This is a microbial process.

3.2 Methanogenesis
Methanogenesis is a biological process by which organic matter is transformed into
methane by microorganisms in the absence of air.

3.3 Biomethanation
When Methanogenesis process is housed in a reactor to create a technological
process, it is known as biomethanation.

3.4 Organic matter

Organic matter is the compound containing carbon atoms usually in chain. In other
words, matter made essentially from carbon linked together. Organic matter forms
the better part of living organisms.

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4. History of Biogas

Anecdotal (Unpublished) evidence indicates that biogas was used for heating bath
water in Persia during the 16th Century BC.

Benjamin Franklin described as early as 1764 that he was able to light a large
surface of shallow muddy late in New Jersy.

Alexander Volta was the first researcher describing the formation of inflammable
gases in (low temperature) marshes and lake sediments scientifically. His paper
was published in Italy in 1776. The importance of these findings was fully
recognized by the scientific community and his letters were translated into German
after two years (1778). Therefore, Volta is considered as the inventor of biogas.

In 1804, Dalton gave the correct chemical formula for methane.

In 1875, Popoff found that river sediments could produce biogas at temperature as
low as 6°C and with increasing of temperature up to 50°C the gas production was
stimulated. He also observed that the composition of biogas did not change with

The first digestion plant was built at leper colony in Bombay, India in 1859.

Gayon, a pupil of Pasteur, recoded a success in his experiments with animal manure
in 1883-84. In same period, Louis Pasteur concluded that anaerobic manure
fermentation might supply gas for heating and illumination.

Based on the findings that higher temperatures stimulate the biogas formation,
heating systems were developed to increase the digester temperature. In between
1914 and 1921, Imhoff and Blunk took patents for heating devices (heat exchangers)
to increase the temperature in the digester.

In 1936, Bushwell made his basic experiments on manure digestion in combination

with most possible types of organic waste and he became the father of co-digestion.

The first full scale agricultural biogas installation developed in 1938 by Isman and
Descellion in Algeria.

Towards the end of the Second World War when the fuel was limited, anaerobic
digestion of liquid manure and sewage sludge became quite popular

France, Germany are operating biogas plants, specially large size plants, with higher
technical standard mainly on sewage works. Half of gas was utilized to run engines.

Today biogas production has become a standard technology in wastewater

treatment and upgrading of biowaste from household and agriculture. The
development of the last 20 years allows not only low cost gas production but also it’s

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upgrading and efficient – utilization in gas engines to produced electricity and fuel

In the field of biogas production (anaerobic digestion) from wastes the India and
China are recognized as world leaders. The period from 1973 – 1985 showed the
rapid and worldwide development of simple AD systems for methane production as
an energy source. In 1973, India, China and South East Asia rapidly and massively
expended their AD units to answer their increased energy cost. The both countries
have large number of small size biogas digesters for supplying the energy needs in
especially rural people.

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5. How is Biogas Produced?

Biogas is produced by microorganisms when they are degrading (digesting) of

organic substances under anaerobic condition.

5.1 Microbial process of biogas production

In fact, no known microbe can produce methane (major component of biogas) other
• Acetate
• Carbon dioxide & Hydrogen
• Methanol
• Formate
• Carbon monoxide and
• Some methylated amines.

Therefore, any organic matter should be converted to one or more of above

substances before produce the methane. There are three distinct groups of bacteria
that can involve in the process of anaerobic digestion. Together with these three
groups of bacteria finally organic matter converted to biogas and digested material,
which is almost different from initial material. And some instances, indigestible
material can also be seen in the digested material.

5.2 Microbes involved in anaerobic digestion

Three groups of bacteria involved in anaerobic digestion are,

i. Hydrolytic fermentative microorganisms. (Hydrolysis or liquefaction)

ii. Acetogenic fermentative bacteria. (Acedogenesis)
iii. Methanogenic bacteria (Methanogenesis)

5.2.1 Hydrolytic fermentative microorganisms

These groups of microorganisms can hydrolyze high molecular substances in to low
molecular substances, for example, proteins to amino acid, polysaccharides to oligo
and monosaccharides, and lipids to free fatty acids. Process performed by these
microorganisms is called as Hydrolysis or liquefaction.

5.2.2 Acetogenic fermentative microorganisms

Acetogenic bacteria obtain their energy from the oxidation of organic acids, alcohols
and volatile acids with more than two carbon atoms, for example, caproate,
butyrate and propionate. End products of hydrolysis process are converted to
volatile fatty acids, H2, CO2, NH3, ethanol, and methanol. The process
performed by microorganism is called as Acedogenesis.

5.2.3 Methanoganic fermentative microorganisms

Methanogenic bacteria are the ultimate group in the process of anaerobic digestion.
They produce the most reduced form of carbon, namely, methane. A detailed
scheme for break down of organic compounds is given in the following diagram.
Approximately 70% of the methane is formed from VFA, 30% form H 2, CO2 by

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methanogenic bacteria. The process performed by these groups of microorganism is

referred as Methane formation.

According to above three groups of bacteria process of biogas production could be

divided into three steps
o Hydrolysis
o Fermentation
o Methane formation.

Figure 01: Flow sheet of methanogenesis

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Factors Affecting Biomethanation

6.1 Important factors

Several factors are governing the methanogenesis process in anaerobic digestion
process. Important factors are briefly explained in the following sections.

6.1.1 Anaerobiosis (anaerobic condition)

Methanogenesis is a strict anaerobic process. The major groups of bacteria actively
engaged in methanogenesis will die in the present of O 2. But some researchers
have found some aerobic facultative bacteria in the digesters. These bacteria do not
have any role in the main degradative reactions of the digestion but they may have
some role in sugar fermentation. Most probably, these bacteria may use the oxygen
in the system, reducing the system, to be suitable for the growth of the
methanogenic bacteria.

6.1.2 Temperature
Methane is formed in nature over a wide range of temperatures. Three different
temperature varies are distinguished

• Psychrophilic temperature - 10 - 25oC

• Measophilic temperature - 30 - 37oC
• Thermophilic temperature - 50 - 65oC

In low temperatures gas production rate as well as the amount of gas production is
low and in high temperatures biogas production is high. In most cases, measophilic
temperature range is used. The measophilic digesters could be converted to
thermophilic or vise versa.

However, the change should be in smoothly (slow change). The sudden

temperature changes badly affects to the digester activities and slow or stop the gas
production. To convert the measophilic process to thermophilic process, it will take
10-20 days.

Thermophilic digestion process has several advantages. These are

 Rapid metabolic activity, help to

- Reduce the retention time
- Increasing the loading rate
- Small digester volume
- Increase rate of methane production (1.5 times faster than
 High temperature, helps to
- Kill the pathogenic organisms
- Improve dewaterability.

Low temperature, psychrophilic, waste digestion is slower than measophilic and

thermophilic digestion.

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6.1.3 pH
A pH value between 6.5 and 7.7 has been found to be optimum for the process.
Methanogenesis beyond the range of 6.5 – 8.0 pH has been found to be less yield of

6.1.4 Substrate composition

Depending on the composition of the substrate (feedstock), the rate and amount of
gas production and digesting process rate will vary. If we have the composition of
the substrate, it is possible to calculate the amounts of gas, which may be produced
on the basis of a simple carbon balance.

Theoretical yield of biogas (m3/kg is destroyed) from various compounds of organic

matter are 0.886 (carbohydrates), 1.535 (fat), and 0.587 (proteins) with methane
content of 50, 70 and 84% respectively.

C/N ratio
Nitrogen is essential for cell growth and it can controls the pH by releasing the NH 3
from Nitrogenous compounds.

The optimum range of C/N ration for methane production is 25:1 to 30:1. This shows
that bacteria consume carbon 25 to 30 times faster than Nitrogen. Therefore,
optimum ratio of C/N is essential for smooth operation of digester. The C/N ratios of
important feeds stocks are given in the following table.

Organic Substrate Carbon (dry wt %) Nitrogen (dry wt %) C/N Ratio

Straw (rice) 42 0.63 67:1
Fallen leaves 41 1.0 41:1
Stalks (corn) 40 0.75 53:1
Weeds 14 0.54 27:1
Sheep excreta 16 0.55 29:1
Cattle dung 7.3 0.29 25:1
Horse excreta 10 0.42 24:1
Swine excreta 7.8 0.65 13:1
Human faeces 2.5 0.85 3:1
Table 02: Composition of different raw materials

The different substrates can be mixed together to achieve the proper C/N ratio for
anaerobic digestion. If we have various raw materials, they can be mixed up to get
desired C/N ratio. Following example clearly show the method of calculating
required amount of nitrogen sources to get desired C/N ratio of law nitrogen raw

Example: Calculate the quantity of urea (46% of N) required to make the 1000kg
of rice straw for biogas digester with C/N, 30:1.

Rice straw contains carbon, 42% and nitrogen, 0.63%. The urea (CO(NH 2)2)
contains nitrogen, 46% and carbon, 20%. Required amount of urea can be
calculated as follows.

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42 20
(Amount of C in Straw) ×1000 + (Amount of C in Urea) ×x
30 100 100
(Required C/N ratio) =
1 0.63 46
(Amount of N in Straw) ×1000 + (Amount of N in Urea) ×x
100 100

Re qured amount of Nitrogen is about 16 .75 kg

6.1.5 Micronutrients
In addition to nitrogen, the phosphorous is also essential for the better growth of
microorganisms. The ratio of C:P of 100-200 is said to be optimum. Micronutrients
such as Nickel (100 nM) Cobalt (50nM) and Molybdenum (50 nM) are important.
Molybdenum may enhance the joint effect of Nickel and Cobolt. Iron (2nm) and
Copper (4nm) are necessary for enhancing the performance of the digestion

Toxins and inhibitors

It has been found that metal irons exert a toxic effect they exceed the required
concentration. If they are in the digester more than tolerable limit, it should be
diluted by adding water and regularly flushed out.
SO 4 500 ppm
Cyanide <25 mg/L
Detergent compounds 20-40 ppm
Sodium chloride 40 000 ppm
Ammonia (Not NH+4 ) 1500 - 3000 ppm
Copper 100 mg/L
Chromium 200 mg/L
Nickel 200-500 mg/L
Sodium 3500-5500 mg/L
Potassium 2500-4500 mg/L
Calcium 2500-4500 mg/L
Magnesium 1000-1500 mg/L

Hydraulic retention time (HRT)

Hydraulic Retention Time expresses the volume of fluids in the reactor per volume of
fluid passing into and out of the reactor on a daily basis. It indicates the contact time
allowed between the substrate and microorganisms in the system. Maintaining
option retention time is an important for efficient conversion of organic matter to

Use of long retention time would result inefficient use of digestion capacity. The
substrates for microorganisms are not sufficient and their growth is slow down.

Short retention time is not sufficient for microorganisms to degrade the whole
substrate. The retention time may very depending on the composition of the
substrate. For example, cellulose material required 10 days for digestion and for
lignocellulose material is non degradable even at 30 days. In most cases 30-40
days of retention time is suitable.

6.1.6 Total solids

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Total solid content of the substrate is very important in biogas production. The
optimal total solid level for biogas production was observed as 10%. But
considerable gas production can be obtained up to 30% of solid level. The increase
of solid level leads to reduce the gas production. To obtained desirable amount of
biogas production from higher total solid levels, long duration of retention times
should be practiced.

When we are using animal excreta (specially cow dung) and green refuse, 1:1 ratio
of water to substrate could be practiced as a general value. Approximate total solid
contents of several substrates are given below.

Substrates Total Solid %

Water hyacinth 11
Plant wastes 75
Grasses 30-80
Poultry manure (fresh) 35
Poultry manure (dry) 90
Pig manure 14
Human faeces 27
News papers 93
Cow dung 20-25
Table 03: Total solids in different raw materials

6.2 Essential requirements for anaerobic digestion

 pH near neutral
 C/N 25 – 30 / 1
 Organic substrates of digestion
 Total solids in the substrates (10% is best but up to 30% is possible)
 Free from toxic compounds
 Initial material to initiate the digestion process (inoculums), in most cases
cow dung (ruminant fluid) or sewage sludge or digested material from an
anaerobic digester could be used.

7. Biogas Production

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7.1 Compounds that can produce biogas

There are several compounds, which can be easily anaerobically degraded. The
following table shows the compound for biogas production and its anaerobic
biodegradability, biogas yields and percentage of methane in the biogas.

Compounds Anaerobic bio Bio gas yield Methane

degradability (m3/kg COD destroyed) (%)
Sugars Excellent
Starch Excellent 0.79 50
Cellulose Poor – good
Proteins Excellent 0.96 53
Fats/Lipids Excellent 1.43 71
Volatile Fatty Acids Excellent 0.75 50
(Short chain with two (for Acetic Acid)
to five “C” atoms)
Table 04:Rate of biogas production in different compounds

7.2 Raw materials suitable for Biomethanation

1. Agricultural wastes: Plant residues (straws, husks, cobs, hulls, etc) and
Animal byproducts (horse, cattle, goat, sheep, pig, poultry, etc)
2. Agro industrial wastes (Bagasses, coir mill wastes, etc)
3. Forestry and forest product industries (leaves, twigs, sawdust,
wood wastes)
4. Energy crops: Agricultural crops and aquatic weeds
(Salvinia, Water Hyacinth)
cipal Bio waste: Municipal solid waste, sewage sludge sewage including industrial effluent
6. Other wastes such as petrochemical, organic chemical, leather, soap,
7. Food industrial wastes (milk, fruit, vegetable processing)

7.3 Degradability of organic compounds

Compound Duration
Lignin Hardly Noticeable
Cellulose Several weeks
Hemi cellulose
Fat A few days
Low molecular sugars
Volatile Fatty Acids A few hours
Table 05: Degradability of different compounds

8. Digester for Biogas Production

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8.1 Parts of a digester

Biogas Unit and Plant are other names for biogas digester. The biogas plant consists
of basically four parts

 The digester where organic matter is digested

 The gas holder where the biogas is collected and stored
 Piping system which helps to transport of biogas to the place where
its use.
 Inlet and outlet for feeding the feedstock and removing the digested

8.1.1 Digester
The digester is a tank, normally circular in shape and it is normally constructed
underground. The digester should be entirely air light to prevent the entering of
oxygen to the digester and leaving out of biogas produced from the digester. It also
should be waterproof. The digester should meet followings also;

• Absolutely leak proof for liquid and gas

• Strong enough to withstand slurry pressure
• Resistance to corrosion
• Heat insulation
• Provisions for fittings such as gas outlet, inlet, outlet, etc,.

8.1.2 Gasholder
There are two types of gasholders namely fixed dome type and floating dome type.
In fixed dome type, the biogas accumulates in the dome over the digester slurry.
The slurry in the digester serves as a reversible displacement medium. The biogas
accumulating in the dome pushes out a portion of the slurry into a higher auxiliary
compartment. The digester slurry floor back into the dome by gravity as the biogas
is consumed. In floating done type, the inverted tank is placed over the digester tank
and the gas released from the digester tank accumulates in the inverted tank over
the slurry.

8.1.3 Piping system

The piping system helps to transport the biogas where it is used. PVC based pipes
are the most suitable pipes for gas transportation. Metal-based pipes may be
corroded since H2S and water vapour are present in the biogas.

8.1.4 Inlet and outlet

Inlet is used to feed the feeding material to the digester. In most cases, before
diverting the feeding material, they are mixed with water. Digested materials come
out from the digester through outlet.

8.2 Types of digesters

There are several types of digesters, fabricated by the scientist in various countries
specially China, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, German, etc. These digesters could be
categorized into groups depending on the country where it is constructed, types of
the dome and the way of putting the feeding material in to digester.

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8.2.1 Based on origin

 China type (fixed dome type)
 Indian (Floating dome)
 Vietnam/Taiwan (The bag digesters is essentially a long cylinder
made of PVC), Inlet, outlet and gas outlet pipes are attached to the
bag. The construction cost is very much less compare to other

8.2.2 Based on the dome

o Fixed dome: This digester has been developed in china. The
biogas accumulates in the upper portion of the digester. The pressure of the
gas is varied depending on the consumption. The digester is constructed to
maintain the pressure of the gas equal or below 120 cm of water. The
retention time for both cow and pig manure normally is 35-40 days. The total
solid concentration of the feeding material is about 7 – 10 %. The
construction of digester is somewhat difficult and skilled masonry labour is

o Floating dome: Floating dome types has been developed in

India in 1950. The produced gas accumulates in a tank, which was placed on
the slurry in inverted position. The digesters are designed for 30,40,55 days
retention times. The gasholder (drum) was originally made of milled steel, until
fiberglass reinforced plastic was introduced successful, to overcome the
problem of corrosion. The pressure of the gas available depends on the
weight of the gasholder per unit area, and usually varies between 4-10cm of
water pressure. This pressure is sufficient to carry the gas up to a length of 20
to 100 m depend on the size.

8.2.3 Based on the way of putting feeding materials

o Batch System: A digester is loaded periodically with designed
quantity of waste material, water and initial material (inoculums or activated
sludge) to initiate the microbial activity in the digester. The daily gas
production increases initially thereafter, it starts falling down, after use over a
period. When quantity of gas decreases below the rated capacity, the digester
is unloaded and recharged with fresh material.

If the raw material (waste material) contains total solids more than 10%, the
system is referred as dry batch system. The researches have shown that total
solid up to 32% could be used for dry batch fermentation. In batch systems,
the biogas production is initially increasing and after some period, (depending
on the feeding material) the production will be reduced. Therefore, uniform
gas production cannot be achieved using this system.

o Continuous system: The continuous digesters are more suitable

for regularly and sufficiently available wastes, which can be mixed with water
homogeneously to form liquid slurry, such materials are cattle dung human
and animal excreta or the materials, which can flow after digestion.

A fixed amount of waste is charge into the biogas plant daily and gas
production from its digester is constant and equal to gas produced from the

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daily charge. The daily effluent from the digester is equal to daily feed

9. Utilization of Biogas

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9.1 Major uses of biogas

The biogas could be used to obtain thermal energy, mechanical energy and
electrical energy. The thermal energy is required for cooking, lighting, boiling of
water, bakery industry, Ironing, etc. The mechanical energy is required for water
pumping, running of engines, etc. Electric energy (electricity) could be generated by
coupling a generator to an engine, which is running in biogas.

9.1.1 Biogas for cooking

In Sri Lanka, very large amount of energy is used for cooking. Almost all biomass
energy is used for cooking. Biomass utilization for cooking easily could be replaced
by adopting the use of biogas for cooking.

Pure methane burns in a mixture of 91% air and 9% methane. The biogas, however,
needs approximately 93% air to burn completely. For this reason, the normal LPG
burners used commonly in the houses are not fit for biogas. Special burners with
bigger holes have been designed for use biogas as fuel. The bigger holes enable to
draw higher percentages of air from the atmosphere, needed for efficient burning of
the biogas with the correct air an biogas mixture, the flame temperature can reach as
high as 8000C. Since the pressure of the biogas is normally low (less than 35cm)
the bigger holes is essential to provide sufficient amount of gas to the burning point.
The biogas burner should be designed to work at 7-10cm of water column. Generally
about 0.25-0.35m3 of biogas is required for cooking for a person per day.

To ensure that the flame does not “lift off”, the ratio of the total area of burner parts to
the area of the injector orifice should be between 80 and 200:1.

9.1.2 Biogas for lighting

The lamp with a mantle could be used for lighting purposes. The biogas consumption
for lighting is about 0.15 m3 per hour for 100-candle power mantle lamp (equivalent
to 60W).

9.1.3 Biogas for engines

Biogas can be used as a fuel in stationary and mobile engines to supply motive
power, pump water, drive machinery (ex: threshers, grinders) or generate electricity.
Both, spark and compression engines could be operated in biogas. The spark
engines are easily modified to run on biogas by using a gas carburetor. Ignition
system need not be altered, other than minor timing adjustment. Spark ignition
engines can run entirely on biogas after starting on petrol and initial heating. The
biogas supply pipe is attached to air manifold between air cleaner and carburetor.
After the engine is run on petrol for 5 to 10 minutes the biogas supply valve is
opened slowly and petrol supply valve closed simultaneously. In two-stroke cycle
engine the lubrication is done by adding lubricant with fuel, which become difficult,
therefore, these engines cannot be converted to biogas.

In the diesel engines the engine is usually started with pure diesel fuel and the
biogas increased gradually until it comprises around 20% of fuel intake with 80%
biogas, engine performance is good and 20% more hose power is delivered the with
diesel alone. Approximately 0.43m3 of biogas is required for running a one-horse
power engine for hour. Electricity also could be produced using biogas. Normally
0.75 m3 of Biogas is required to produce 1kwh

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Thermal efficiency is very low in engines running on biogas, about 25-30%.

Therefore, extra amount of thermal energy could be used to heat the digester or for
space heating of animal sheds, green houses and buildings.

9.2 Treatment of biogas

The raw biogas produced in a digester is normally treated in order to remove water
H2S, dust & CO2. The choice of cleaning method employed and the compounds to be
removed depends on the type of end use of the gas. If biogas is used for any
purpose, the water removal is essential. Simple arrangements could be employed in
the gas distribution system to trap water in the biogas.

By removing the H2O in the biogas, quality of flames both burners and lamps could
be improved. Hydrogen sulfide and water removed is essential when biogas is used
in engines. Removing H2S and water could prevent damaging to the engines by
corrosion. CO2 removal is employed when a high quality gas is required. This can
be the case when the biogas is to be used as a substitute for natural gas or when
sensitive equipment is used.

H2S removal using iron oxide pellets is one method. In this technique, in which the
gas is led through a box of pellets, the iron oxide pellets reacts with the H 2S in the
biogas according to the following reaction

Fe2O3 + 3H2S → Fe2S3 + 3H2O

Regeneration of the iron pellets is done with oxygen

2Fe2O3 + 3O2 → 2Fe2O3 + 6S

Normally two boxes of pellets are installed in the gas line; one box is loaded whereas
the other is regenerated. When the iron pellets are completely covered with sulfide,
the pellets are replaced. H2S could be removed by absorption of H 2S in water or
organic solvents. High consumption of water limits the use of this method. Chemical
absorption with a diluted sodium hydroxide and iron chloride solutions are also
employed to remove the H2S. By removing the CO2, biogas energy volume of biogas
could be increased. And petrol and diesel engines works properly if the CH4 in the
biogas more than 90-95%. Presence of CO2 in the biogas when biogas is used as
fuel for vehicles, lower the output power, take up space in the storage cylinders and
freezing at valves are major problems. Therefore, all or most of CO2 should be
removed when biogas is used for vehicles or engines.

9.3 Storage of biogas

Biogas could be compressed for the use of vehicles. However, it has to be utilized
energy to compress the biogas. Therefore, for small biogas plants, it is not
economically viable. Biogas cannot be liquefied easily because the boiling point of
methane is very much less. It is about -1620C. Methane is the major components in
the biogas.

10. Design of a Biogas Plant

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The biogas plants are designed based on type of waste material available for
digestion and the quantity of gas required. The gas requirements for various
purposes are given below.

Purpose Gas requirement

Cooking 0.25 m3 per person per day
Lighting 0.12-0.15 m3 per hour per lamp
Driving engines 0.75 m3 per kWh
Table 06: Gas requirement for various purposes

Source Manure Gas/kg/day Retention Time Total Solids

/day (kg) (m3) (days) (%)
Cattle 10 0.036 30-45 14-25
Buffalo 15 0.036 30-45 14-25
Pig 2.25 0.078 45-55 18-27
Chicken 0.18 0.062 30-45 20-30
Adult Human 0.4 0.070 45-55 17-20
Table 07: Waste materials and their gas generations

Based on the above information such as waste material available, their gas
productions rate, retention time, gas requirement for cooking, lighting etc, the biogas
digesters could be designed. In the case of straw, one kilogram of straw
approximately can produce 1L of biogas per day but this may vary with the retention

According to the number of animals that farmer having, the gas production from the
wastes, which is produced by excreta of the animals, could be calculated. And also
number of family members and their gas requirement decide the total gas
requirement for the family.

Now it is easy to find out which is less, total amount of gas produced form available
quantity of waste or the quantity of gas required per day. Then, it can be found the
limiting parameter for determining the volume the digester. That means, if gas
consumption is less than gas production, the volume of digester will be decided by
the amount of gas consumption. If the gas production is less than gas consumption,
the volume of gas digester will be decided by the gas production. Which is less, it will
decide the digester size (volume).

Example: Farmer having six members is going to construct a biogas unit. He has
five cows and two buffaloes. Design a biogas unit for the farmer. The biogas unit
should be able to provide gas for cooking for the family and for lighting of two lamps
for 2 hours.

First, it has to be calculated the gas production and gas consumption.

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Gas production:
No. Of animals are seven (five cows, two buffaloes)
Amount of excreta (cow dung) per day is 70 Kg.
Total gas production is 2.52 m3/day (70 x 0.036)

Gas consumption:
For cooking, the gas requirement is (0.25 x 6) 1.5 m3
The gas requirement for lighting two lamps for three hrs is (0.15 x 2 x 2) 0.6m3
Total gas consumption is 2.1 m3 /day

The digester could be designed based on the gas production as well as gas
consumption. But the size of the digester would be large when digester is designed
in considering the gas production and hence the cost of construction is high. When
the digester is designed based on gas consumption, the size of the digester would
be small compared to the digester built based on gas production. Since the gas
consumption is less than gas production, the digester is designed based on gas
consumption. Hence, the cost of construction would be less and it is the suitable
size. Therefore, the design of the digester should be done based on, gas
consumption in this case.

Total gas consumption is 2.1 m3 /day

Required amount of raw material (Cow dung) is 58.3kg(2.1/0.036) and it could be

considered as 60Kg.

Normally, before feed the raw material to the digester the raw materials should be
mixed with water to make the desired level of total solids in the raw materials. The
amount of total solids (TS) in the raw materials for better anaerobic digester and
biogas production is about 10%. That mean, the 90% of water is required for
digestion. Researches now have shown considerable biogas production even at
30% of total solid concentrations. However, in the design of a biogas unit, TS
concentration should be considered as 10%.

Normally, cow dung has about 14 – 25 % of TS. By mixing cow dung with water at
1:1 ratio, the desired TS concentration can be achieved. Therefore, the amount of
water that has to be applied is 60kg.

The weight of total feeding material is about 120 Kg. (60kg cow dung + 60kg of

Now it has to be calculated the volume of the digester. If the density of cow dung
water mixture digester is about 1080kg/m3 the volume of the mixture is about 0.111
m3 (120/1080). This amount of mixture of raw materials can produce gas for one-
day requirement for the family. The retention time for the cow dung in tropical
condition is about 40 days.

The total volume of the digester (feeding compartment) is 4.44 m3 ((120x40)/1080).

Retention time is the average time a unit volume of feeding material (liquid) remains

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in a digester (vessel) operated a continuous way. It means, the cow dung water
mixture is in the digester and produce gas for about 40 days.

Normally, volume of the dome (basically this space is for storage of gas) is about ¼
of the volume of the feeding material. Therefore total volume is 5.55m3
(4.44/4+4.444=5.55m ).

Actual volume should be more than 10% of the theoretical volume. Therefore actual
volume of the digester would be about (5.55 x 10/100 + 5.55) = 6.105) 6.0m3.

Therefore, the total volume of the digester is about 6m3. Using following simple
equations, the dimensions of the digester can be found.

Figure 02: Sketch of the digester

capacity 6
(A) Diameter of the digester = 3 =3 3 = 2.38 m
0.447 0.447

diameter 2.38
(B) Height of the dome = = = 0.47 m
5 5

(C) Height of the cylindrical part = x 2 = 0.95 m

(D) Depth of bottom = = 0.29 m

Total height = 0.50+0.95+0.30=1.75m

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11. Advantages and Environmental Aspects of Anaerobic


11.1 Advantage of Anaerobic digestion

 Produces large amount of methane gas which could be used as energy
 Digested materials (out come of the digester) are almost odorless
 Digested material has good fertilizer value and can be used as soil
 Reduces organic content of waste materials by 30-80% and produce an
established sludge (slurry) for ultimate disposal
 Weed seed are destroyed and pathogens are either destroyed or greatly
reduced in number
 Rodents and flies are not attracted to the end product of the process
 Provide a sanitary method for disposal of human and animal wastes
 Helps conserve scare local energy resources such as forests
 Produce valuable source of energy and it could be used for cooking
purposes and make smoke free environment in the kitchen

11.2 Environmental aspects of biogas technology

The use of biogas technology in the agricultural sector is influenced by environment,
social (income, establishing and employment) and hygienic issues. In the following
the only environmental aspects of biogas technology in the agriculture are

1. Anaerobic treatment of animal manure with co-substrates increases the quality of

the digested manure: It will improve the handling of manure and increased yield.
In addition, the range of application possibilities and the acceptance by farmers in
increased. Many farmers have observed yield, after using digested manure,
increase of 2 to 3% compared to untreated manure. By co-fermentation, nutritive
value of crops could be easily increased.

2. Anaerobically treated manure increases the range of application possibilities in

terms of time, crops and housing: Digested manure has high content of
Ammonium Nitrogen. The increased ammonia content of digested manure
combined with a slightly increased pH causes a higher risk of ammonia loss in
treated manure compared to untreated manure. Therefore, digested manure
must be handled more carefully. The loss of N (NH 3 commissions) could be
prevented by injecting the digested manure to the soil or by cover the manure.
NH3 and NH4 are changed with pH. At lower pH, due to high concentration of H+,
the NH3 is converted to NH4, which cannot evaporate. However, in high pH levels,
NH3 is high and it has high evaporation capacity.

Undigested manure most probably has phytotoxic compounds, which creates

necroses and scleroses on the plant leaves. Through anaerobic digestion,
phytotoxic acids are degraded and dry matter content is decreased. Therefore,
digested manure can be applied to a growing field, which usually has a high
demand for nutrients. Odor causing substances are also degraded in the same
way and therefore anaerobic digestion produces odorless digested material.

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3. Reduction of weed seeds: The AD process lowers the ability of seeds to


4. Improvement and stabilization of soil fertility: Organic fertilizer and mineral

fertilizer differentiate in not only nutrient content, composition and variance but
also in qualitative aspects, while, organic fertilizer contributes directly to the
humus for making process of the soil, mineral fertilized does not. Lack of humus
alternately results in desertification. A productive soil system needs a balance
between incoming humus and degrading of humus. Manure, compost or any
organic fraction will increase or stabilize the humus level in the soil. During AD
process, most of the low molecular substances (less than 1000g/Mol) are
degraded, while lignin substances still contributes to the humus pool of the soil.

5. Reduction of pollutants: Organic compounds can be reduced through the

anaerobic treatment process. Tests have shown that organic carbon compound,
mainly resulting from the use of pesticides, can be degraded. (trichlormethane,
tetrachlormethane, 2-4D,etc).

6. Contribution to the water resource protection: Since the increased ammonia

content in the digested manure an accelerated plant up take occurs. Roots
prefer, NH3 than nitrate, if they are available at same time. When NH3 is more
and faster absorbed by the plants it cannot be transformed into nitrate and
leached downward in direction of the ground water level. Thus, ground water
pollution through nitrate is prevented.

7. Contribution to the climate change protection: Methane is the second most

important greenhouse gas in the world, with a global worming potential of 25
times higher than CO2. It has been estimated that CH4 emissions from
agriculture contributes about 33% to the global green house effect. About 7%
alone result from animal excrement, which is similar to 20-30 million tones of
methane per year. Through anaerobic treatment of animal excretion, a
renewable source of energy is generated. It has an important duel climatic effect.

• The use of renewable energy reduces the CO2 emission through a reduction
of the demand for fossil fuel.

Coal Heavy mineral oil Mineral oil Gas

0.33 0.28 0.26 0.20
Table 08: CO2 emissions different fuels kg/kwh

• At the same time, the process can diminish uncontrolled methane generation
by capturing methane as biogas.

Smaller agricultural biogas plants reduce the use of forest resources for
household energy purposes and thus slow down deforestation, soil degradation,
and resulting natural catastrophes (disasters) like flooding or desertification.

Nitrous Oxide has high global worming potential. It has found the anaerobic
digestion reduce the Nitrous oxide emissions also.

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8. Biogas composition and emissions after burning in comparison with other fuels
are given in the following table and it shows that biogas has clear emissions after

Pollutants SO2 NOX Dust CO2 BaP*

kg/TJ kg/TJ kg/TJ g/TJ g/TJ
Mineral Oil 140 90 20 90 1
Gas 3 90 2 70 -
Coal 300 180 20 100 3000
Wood industry 100 64 100 130 13
Wood private 30 60 100 300 -
Straw 170 340 200 300 -
Biogas 3 50 3 50 -
(*Cancer causing substance, Benzo (a) Pyren)
Table 09: Emissions after burning of different fuels

9. Resource protection, an appropriate technology: Fossil fuels are limited and

contribute to the greenhouse effect. Biogas is renewable and can help to reduce
the climate change a well as support the protection and conservation of limited
resources. Gases as fuel have one big advantage in computing to other fuels.
There is no need for refining and processing of the fuel, and the exhaust usually
does not need an expensive and sophisticated clearing facility.

10. Reduction of waste disposal: AD contributes strongly to a closed nutrient cycle

system, where nutrients are not lost but reused in the agriculture. At the same
time, energy is generated. Therefore, participation of the agricultural sector is
and should be a major and important step in a sound waste management.

11.3 Use of digested slurry

 Digested slurry could be used as a feed for fish.
 Digested slurry could be used for substrates for mushroom production.
 Valuable organic fertilizer with valuable micronutrients
 Digested manure could be easily handled since there is no odour.
 Slurry could be used as insecticide for insect pests

Ajith de alwis (2001).Study on the potential of biogas in Sri Lanka. ITDG South Asia.
Anonymous, (2000). Annual report, central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Anonymous, (1998). National Environmental action plan 1998 – 2001. Ministry of forestry &
Environment, Sampathpaya, Baththaramulla, Sri Lanka.

Bardiya, N., Somayaji, P. & Knanna,S. (196). Bio methanation of Banana peel and
pineapple waste. Bioresource Technology,58, 73-76.

Mathur,A.N. and Rathore, N.S. (1992). Biogas management and utilization, Himanshu
publications,5k51,Ram singh K1 Badi, Sector 11, Udaipur(Rajasthan).

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