What is Biogas?
Most organic matter begins the process of decomposition when it is exposed to oxygen and sunlight. However, organic matter can also decompose without any oxygen, by the process of anaerobic fermentation. This happens due to the bacteria present in the matter which acts during the absence of oxygen. Landfills see a lot of such decay, especially when the waste material becomes wet and receives little sunlight. As a result, a lot of methane and nitrous oxide is produced and released into the atmosphere. Biogas is the result of this decay, and it is an energy source like no other.
One may find the structure of biogas to be a little confusing. Comprising mainly of methane and carbon dioxide, one has to wonder how these greenhouse gases are helping anybody. However, the magic happens when the gas is burnt. The use of biogas as a fuel happens because it reacts with oxygen and releases energy, which is clean in nature.
The resulting reaction uses up the gases and prevents them from rising into the atmosphere. Biogas plants are slowly becoming popular due to the many benefits associated with them. They are already being used for public transport, industrial heating and many more applications.
Advantages of Biogas
1. Renewable Source of Energy: To begin with, biogas is considered to be a renewable source of energy. Since it often produced from materials that form sewage and waste products, the only time it will be depleted is when we stop producing any waste.
2. Non-Polluting: It is also considered to be non-polluting in nature. The production of biogas does not require oxygen, which means that resources are conserved by not using any further fuel.
3. Reduces Landfills: It also uses up waste material found in landfills, dump sites and even farms across the country, allowing for decreased soil and water pollution.
4. Cheaper Technology: Applications for biogas are increasing as the technology to utilize it gets better. It can be used to produce electricity and for the purpose of heating as well. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is biogas that has been compressed and can be used as a fuel for vehicles. Production can be carried out through many small plants or one large plant.
5. Large number of Jobs: Either way, work opportunities are created for thousands of people in these plants. These jobs are a blessing in rural areas, which are the targeted grounds for the use of biogas. In fact, biogas can easily be decentralized, making it easier to access by those living in remote areas or facing frequent power outages.
6. Little Capital Investment: Biogas are easy to set up and require little capital investment on a small scale basis. In fact, many farms can become self sufficient by utilizing biogas plants and the waste material produced by their livestock each day. A single cow can provide enough waste material within a day to power a light bulb the entire day.
7. Reduces Greenhouse Effect: It also reduces the greenhouse effect by utilizing the gases being produced in landfills as forms of energy. This is a major reason why the use of biogas has started catching on. It recycles most forms of biodegradable waste and works on simple forms of technology.
Disadvantages of Biogas
1. Little Technology Advancements: First of all, the current systems in place used to create biogas are not as efficient as they get. Little new technology has been introduced for streamlining the process and making it more cost effective. As a result, large scale industrial production of biogas is still not on the energy map. Although it could solve the energy issues being faced by countries all over the world, very few investors are willing to put in the startup capital. It is also not the best idea to construct one biogas plant per house, which means that a central system will have to be put into place.
2. Contain Impurities: Biogas contains a number of impurities even after refining processes have been put into place. When compressed for use as fuel, these can become corrosive to the metal parts of engines.
3. Not Attractive on Large Scale: The process of using biogas on a large scale is not economically viable and it is very difficult to enhance the efficiency of biogas systems.
4. Unstable: It is also somewhat unstable, making it prone to explosions if the methane comes in contact with oxygen and become flammable in nature.
Even with all of the disadvantages present, countries have started to apply the uses of biogas in everyday life. Public transportation has been renewed and made efficient with the help of CNG. Remote locations that are off the electric grid receive a steady supply of power from these plants. The future use of biogas is bright, even with the problems it faces.