Advantages and Disadvantages of Biogas
Worldwide interest in renewable energy sources is gathering momentum. Biogas production is growing steadily, as more people are setting up biogas plants to produce biogas. To get a better picture of what biogas is good for, we have created this list explaining the advantages and disadvantages of biogas.
If you want to learn more about what biogas is, have a look at our Biogas 101 blog post.
Advantages of Biogas
1. Biogas is Eco-Friendly
Biogas is a renewable, as well as a clean, source of energy. Gas generated through biodigestion is non-polluting; it actually reduces greenhouse emissions (i.e. reduces the greenhouse effect). No combustion takes place in the process, meaning there is zero emission of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere; therefore, using gas from waste as a form of energy is actually a great way to combat global warming.
Unsurprisingly, concern for the environment is a major reason why the use of biogas has become more widespread. Biogas plants significantly curb the greenhouse effect: the plants lower methane emissions by capturing this harmful gas and using it as fuel. Biogas generation helps cut reliance on the use of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.
Another biogas advantage is that, unlike other types of renewable energies, the process is natural, not requiring energy for the generation process. In addition, the raw materials used in the production of biogas are renewable, as trees and crops will continue to grow. Manure, food scraps, and crop residue are raw materials that will always be available, which makes it a highly sustainable option.
2. Biogas Generation Reduces Soil and Water Pollution
Overflowing landfills don’t only spread foul smells- they also allow toxic liquids to drain into underground water sources. Consequently, yet another advantage of biogas is that biogas generation may improve water quality. Moreover, anaerobic digestion deactivates pathogens and parasites; thus, it’s also quite effective in reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases. Similarly, waste collection, and management, significantly improve in areas with biogas plants. This, in turn, leads to improvements in the environment, sanitation, and hygiene.
3. Biogas Generation Produces Organic Fertilizer
The by-product of the biogas generation process is enriched organic (digestate), which is a perfect supplement to, or substitute for, chemical fertilizers. The fertilizer discharge from the digester can accelerate plant growth and resilience to diseases, whereas commercial fertilizers contain chemicals that have toxic effects and can cause food poisoning, among other things.
4. It’s A Simple and Low-Cost Technology That Encourages A Circular Economy
The technology used to produce biogas is quite cheap. It is easy to set up and needs little investment when on a small scale. Small biodigesters can be used right at home, utilizing kitchen waste and animal manure. A household system pays for itself after a while, and the materials used for generation are absolutely free. The gas manifested can be used directly for cooking and generation of electricity. This is what allows the cost of biogas production to be relatively low.
Farms can make use of biogas plants and waste products produced by their livestock every day. The waste products of one cow can provide enough energy to power a lightbulb for an entire day.
In large plants, biogas can also be compressed to achieve the quality of natural gas, and utilized to power automobiles. Building such plants requires relatively low capital investment, and creates green jobs. For instance, in India, 10 million jobs were created, mostly in rural areas, in plants and in organic waste collection.
5. Healthy Cooking Alternative For Developing Areas
Biogas generators save women and children from the daunting task of firewood collection. As a result, more time is left over for cooking and clean. More importantly, cooking on a gas stove, instead of over an open fire, prevents the family from being exposed to smoke in the kitchen. This helps prevent deadly respiratory diseases. Sadly, 4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels for cooking.
Disadvantages of Biogas
1. Few Technological Advancements
An unfortunate disadvantage of biogas today is that the systems used in the production of biogas are not efficient. There are no new technologies yet to simplify the process and make it abundant and low cost. This means large scale production to supply for a large population is still not possible. Although the biogas plants available today are able to meet some energy needs, many governments are not willing to invest in the sector.
2. Contains Impurities
After refinement and compression, biogas still contains impurities. If the generated bio-fuel was utilized to power automobiles, it can corrode the metal parts of the engine. This corrosion would lead to increased maintenance costs. The gaseous mix is much more suitable for kitchen stoves, water boilers, and lamps.
3. Effect of Temperature on Biogas Production
Like other renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind) biogas generation is also affected by the weather. The optimal temperature bacteria need to digest waste is around 37°C. In cold climates, digesters require heat energy to maintain a constant biogas supply.
4. Less Suitable For Dense Metropolitan Areas
Another biogas disadvantage is that industrial biogas plants only makes sense where raw materials are in plentiful supply (food waste, manure). For this reason, biogas generation is much more suitable for rural and suburban areas.
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