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Bio-Gas Plants: Prospects, Problems and Tasks

C. R. Prasad, K. Krishna Prasad and A. K. N. Reddy
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 9, No. 32/34, Special Number (Aug., 1974), pp. 1347-1349+1351-1353+1355-1361+1363-1364
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4363913
Page Count: 15
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Bio-Gas Plants: Prospects, Problems and Tasks
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Abstract

The initial part of this paper contains a detailed study of whether bio-gas plants will fulfil the demand for a decentralised energy and fertiliser production, particularly in the large number of small villages which, on economic grounds, are going to be by-passed in the rural electrification programmes. Considering a village of 500 persons, 250 cattle and 100 houses, it is shown that, despite a 75 per cent dung collection efficiency, a low bio-gas yield of 3 cft per lb dry dung will provide a total energy of about 667.5 KWH per day at a generating cost of about 5 paise per KWH. This energy output is over 30 per cent more than the 500 KWH per day now consumed by such villages from both commercial and non-commercial energy sources. Further the bio-gas energy output is sufficient for 10 pumpsets (200 KWH per day), 5 industries (50 KWH per day), one light in every house (67.5 KWH per day), energy for cooking in every house (200 KWH per day), and 150 KWH per day for miscellaneous purposes. In contrast, rural electrification programmes are only targeting for about 100 KWH per day thus compelling the continued use of non-commercial fuels, and as a consequence, the continued loss of fertiliser and forest through the burning of dung and firewood. The items for a cost-benefit comparison of bio-gas energy production vs rural electrification are tabulated, and appear to favour the former. In addition, the bio-gas plants will produce about 295 tonnes per year of organic manure, corresponding to about 4.4 tonnes of nitrogen per year from which the minimum additional yield of foodgrains may be expected to be about 22 tonnes. This fertiliser output is more than the village's requirements on the basis of current average consumptions of nitrogen per hectare. Further, fertiliser production from bio-gas plants appears to have several advantages over production from large-scale coal-based plants from the point of view of the saving of capital and the generation of employment. Despite these obvious benefits which are likely to accrue from currently available bio-gas plants, it is stressed that drastic reductions in plant cost must be achieved to prevent the Government plans from being woefully inadequate for exploiting the full potential of bio-gas production of energy and fertiliser. The concept of solar energy plantations to grow plant matter for fermentation in bio-gas plants is described; and calculations are presented to show that one acre of a water hyacinth plantation can produce in a bio-gas plant about 165 KWH per day in addition to 1.23 tonnes per year of nitrogen in fertiliser and 0.37 tonne per year of edible protein. The following crucial socio-economic problem will be generated by the installation of bio-gas plants in a village: if the programme is not intended to serve the rural rich only, then the energy demands of villagers who do not own cattle must be satisfied, failing which they will continue burning dung cakes and firewood. The solution to this problem will determine the success of the bio-gas programme from the village and national point of view. The concluding part of the paper contains a listing of a number of major R and D problems. The range and character of these problems require that they be tackled by major institutions.

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