As a general rule Americans are all big biogas generators, if they only knew it. So, is every citizen of every wealthy country. We throw away several pounds (about 2kg in fact) of waste every day, and still 55% of all that trash generated in the United States goes into landfills. Many other nations are just as bad.
1 – Landfills as Biogas Generators
But, we can ALSO burn Grandpa’s trash too, using the gas which pours out of landfills! That’s why we say we are all biogas generators.
In 1986 there were over 7,600 small dumps, today there are around 1900 mega-dumps which should have enough capacity for centuries of garbage. We could also call these “biogas generators” because in 2008, power from landfills exceeded solar power production in New York and New Jersey, and biogas collected from landfills has expanded significantly in the years since.
Of the 1900 landfills (or should we call them biogas generators!) over 640 have added the technology to harness the power of landfill gases (LFGs) and converting them to energy. LFG is produced by anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that doesn’t need oxygen) buried deep within landfills.
The anaerobic bacteria munch on our trash and poop out methane which would NORMALLY be real bad for the planet.
Methane is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, and according to the EPA, municipal solid waste (MSW) is the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the US.
But, if we capture it before it floats up and makes climate change worse, we can use it for good because by using the energy we don’t need to use the oil we would otherwise have needed to use.
Methane is an odourless, colourless hydrocarbon (CH4), and because the bacteria are trapped underground, companies can drill wells into the rubbish and suck it out with vacuum pipes.
Once collected, the methane is cooled, cleaned, and mixed with mercaptan to give it a detectable odour before they send it out to natural gas plants to be burned for fuel.
Yep, natural gas normally comes from fossil fuels come from rock, or oil deposits, and depending upon the source it’s a “dirty” natural gas. Typically, a mix of 99 percent methane with some propane, ethane and sulphur and helium mixed in.
The biomass methane also needs cleaning up to be just CH4.
The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program is hoping to encourage companies to set up on top of landfills and suck in as much methane as possible, because otherwise we’re just letting dollars float away.
As of 2018, LFG captured energy was powering several million US homes.
So just to recap, we throw away a lot of stuff and just let it sit there, but thanks to these technologies getting trashy could clean up the world.
As found on Youtube.
2 – A Simple Home Biogas Generator
Here is a our second biogas generator, and it is using a home anaerobic digestion system to generate biogas.
The whole idea is to create biogas which is such a good green, clean, and sustainable energy methane.
Here, we are going to show you today four different ways. You can go as simple or as high-tech as you want to go with this.
Here is one real simple method right here. You take two cylinders, and as you put food waste and your manure and everything else in there, as you churn it up, the methane bubbles to the top and forces an upper cylinder up, which is good for several purposes.
It holds the methane, and it pressurises the biogas generated. Meaning that you can send it back to your utilities gas supply, or whatever you are going to use it for.
You put in your rotten vegetables, and your manure, and whatever organic waste you’ve got which can be ground up, and you put it in here.
As the methane builds up under this chamber, it raises up slowly, until it would eventually fall off. it won’t fall off though because you will use it for cooking. That’s why it truly is a great “biogas generator”.
As the cylinder rises up, you turn your cook stove on or your electricity generator. This biogas storage device sinks back down. It is all very simple, and I call it our biogas generator concept 2.
3 – Small Farm Scale Biogas Generator also for Smallholdings and 3 – Community Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Projects
Next, we are going to do the same thing, for a biogas generator at a much bigger scale.
We got some old fuel tanks from a farm, had them welded together, made one a lot bigger. They just happened to just fit neatly inside each other.
So, here is another concept. Here is a whole other way. The whole idea is to have a sealed chamber that seals off the oxygen.
This is what we have done with three tanks. You put the food scraps, manure etc., in, as before.
But, this time an electric powered thing grinds them up, and sends them down a pipe and the food stays for on average about 30 days where it just rots by fermentation without free oxygen being present.
The digester is at the heart of this biogas generator and must be completely sealed.
The whole idea is to starve the rotting stuff of oxygen to generate biogas. That’s what anaerobic composting is all about.
Use products like the Uniseal range to prevent wastage from leaking biogas, during the pilot stage in the storage period.
I am just going to use it. They are not too expensive. We are going to take the years organic waste, such as rotten apples, and rotten vegetables, and turn them into methane by grinding them up in our methane digester, and letting them rot.
For larger biogas generation plants you can generate biogas at a larger scale. One potential good move (US based) is a 3/4 horsepower in-sink macerator.
I just ground up a whole box of rotting apples in like thirty seconds to a minute, straight into an (past its use-by date!) apple sauce.
The great thing about using rotten vegetables is you are getting it before it is halfway digested. A lot of people use methane digesters. They will throw cow dung in there, which is good. But, that stuff is halfway already used. The cow has already used it. One time, they hooked up a balloon to one of these cows. That cow, in one day, filled up a balloon full of methane the size of the cow.
But, if your stuff is halfway digested, there is a problem because, about half the methane is gone already. If it is fresh it is best. Nothing produces methane better than anything with lots of sugar in it. Cantaloupes, apples etc, produce way more methane than just grass would.
So, what you should do? You should go out to some of the local restaurants, you know the ones right down the street. See if you can make a deal with them to get their leftover food waste to put in your biodigester. It is way better than just using cow dung or chicken waste. There is way more of it.
We went around, and after a while picked up 800 pounds of rotten food waste per load. If it was good, we would feed it to the chickens, but if it is super rotten stuff, we are just tossing in the macerator, grinding it up and mixing it in to a digester feedstock substrate (slurry). And it will, if needed, produce methane for seven or eight weeks. It will produce a lot of methane within two weeks.
Then, if it is for waste biogas generation, it just keeps going for about seven or eight weeks.
By the time it is fully digested, they fluid/ solid mix, almost comes out looking like a clear liquid.
This ends our biodigester blueprint.
4 – IBC Tanks Based Biogas Generators
These are our three IBC tanks: one, two, three. I wanted to build something that will take a hundred pounds of food scraps a day, move it on through.
The stuff that has been in there for a few days, will come off the top, go back into the bottom, swirl around.
The stuff that has been in here for a couple more weeks, will come off the top.
Then, by the time it gets digested to the end, it is almost fully eaten up and turned into a nice, almost clear liquid. That we can use for fertiliser.
Last thing we are going to do is install our overflow valve. We are going to put a hole, and put this uni-seal in right there. Shove it into the tank, and then we can come in and pull off about 100 gallons of fertiliser whenever we want it. We are going to pull off all these burrows and make that real clean. Use a really sharp hole saw if you can.
We recommend painting your biogas generator black, to soak up as much of the sun’s heat during the day as possible. That way you can keep that reaction going, and simultaneously use spare heat to warm the farm’s greenhouse during the winter time.
Experience we Gained from Running Our Biogas Generators
Alright, now we are going to get into the science of biogas generation at a micro-biological level.
What we found out on accident, because we guess nobody told us, or else we didn’t read the last few lines of the instruction manual.
You cannot just throw a bunch of rotten vegetables and rotten stuff and manure or whatever. You cannot just throw it into a chamber and expect it to automatically just create methane. You got several different variables and it is really easy to maintain; you just got to know some of the science.
We do not want to to make it sound super difficult, because it isn’t. But, the whole idea is you have two different kinds of bacteria.
One bacteria that eats your food and creates acid; the other that eats the acid and creates methane, a methanogenic bacteria.
Then, you have two different kinds of food to feed into the biogas generator. You have low-energy food, like what cows eat, namely grass.
Then, you got high-energy food like grain and at the highest levels, you have sugar.
So, what happens is if you put too much high-energy food in your chamber at once? If you feed the system too much, you will end up getting too much acid-producing bacteria or too much acid.
The acid bacteria will go crazy, and produce a bunch of acid and that acid is great, it is what the methane- producing bacteria eat to create methane. The problem is it shoots the pH so low.
Once you get below pH 6.0 you are done. Your methane bacteria start to die off and then you have to start over and build back up that methane population.
So, the question is, how do you start a methane digester? What is the best way?
The best way is to start it with cow manure. Not chicken manure; chicken manure has way too much high-energy grain, stuff that has not even been digested that just goes right through the chicken’s body. But, the cow, they have been eating grass and it is less likely to produce a spike in acid.
That is it for for this article intro. Check out our latest video on AD at: to follow soon
As found on Youtube