Biogas is a gas that is created whenever animal and plant wastes degrade. Bacteria ferment the waste under anaerobic, or oxygen-free, conditions. The result of this fermentation includes carbon dioxide and methane.
Methane is created in landfills, where the buried waste rots and produces this gas. Often, methane is permitted to escape into the atmosphere. However, it can easily be collected and piped to local industries where it could be available for burning to release heat along with other energy options.
Biogas could also be produced under more controlled conditions in pits in the ground or in tanks called biogas digesters. All types of human and animal waste can be put into these digesters. The rotting mass releases gases, such as methane, that can be piped away and burned as a fuel for heating and cooking.
This exciting energy source is becoming a major fuel source in many developing countries, where practically all rural families or villages can make use of a biogas digester to generate fuel. Biogas digesters are used on farms to dispose of animal wastes. The gas can be further used to power a generator to produce electricity. The intensive farming that is found in Denmark and the Netherlands generates large amounts of animal waste, which needs careful disposal. It is fermented in digesters to produce biogas, while the residue is used as crop fertilizer.
Elsewhere, household wastes, livestock waste, and poultry waste are burned in specially modified power stations, rather than used to make biogas. These power stations have to meet strict emission controls to prevent the release of toxic chemicals.
Of course, one additional benefit of burning off the methane from these waster sources is that it will help reduce greenhouse gases significantly.
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