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Methane from Biogas
a renewable source of energy
Anaerobic digestion of wastes provides biogas. Biogas contains about 60% methane that can be
used to generate electricity or used for heat or for fuel for vehicles. Any animal manure, human
sewage or food waste will produce methane during anaerobic digestion. Natural gas is methane.
Biogas can be "cleaned" to yield purified methane that can be used in the natural gas pipelines.  

Methane from biogas is an excellent alternative energy source. Using methane for energy helps the
environment by replacing the use of non-renewable fossil fuels with renewable energy and by
taking the methane out of the atmosphere. Methane is a green house gas that has 21 times the
heating effect as carbon dioxide. Biogas methane is renewable unlike natural gas which is mined
from underground wells and is a non-renewable fossil fuel.
  • Many European countries have for years been steadily building anaerobic digestion facilities for
    generating electricity from methane produced from manure, sewage and garbage.

  • Villagers in many undeveloped countries use very simple technology to convert animal and human
    wastes to biogas for cooking and heating.

  • Recently hundreds of farms in Mexico and South America have installed anaerobic digesters to collect
    and use methane from manure to provide energy for farm use. Many of these digesters have been paid
    for by a company that aggregates and sells carbon credits to factories and utility companies in
    countries that signed agreements under the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions. Carbon
    credits are earned by reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane. These
    credits have considerable value.

  • In the U.S., which rejected the Kyoto protocol, most of the methane from wastes is allowed to escape
    into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming. However there are about a hundred or so
    dairy farms, a few pig farms, some landfills and a few municipal sewage treatment plants in the U.S. that
    are collecting methane from waste and using it for fuel
Unbelievable as it may seem, at this time of approaching energy crisis, most farmers can’t get utility
companies to purchase their green, renewable electricity. Possible reasons for this reluctance on the part of
electrical utilities range from lack of familiarity with connecting farm generators to pressure from coal and oil
companies to maintain monopoly of the utility market. Without the ability to sell the excess power generated
from methane farmers or others with sources of methane can’t afford to install the equipment for collecting
methane and generating power as this usually means an investment of a million or more dollars.
We Need To Take Action To Change This!
One glimmer of hope in America for more usage of renewable methane is that thousands of consumers, realizing
the seriousness of global warming and problems associated with fossil fuel usage, have signed on with their
utility companies to pay extra for “green energy” generated from sources such as wind, biomass and, in a few
cases, bio-methane.  Consumer pressure will likely be needed to motivate more electric utilities to purchase
electricity generated from renewable methane thus helping decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Biogas from manure or other wastes can be purified to yield pipeline grade methane.  With the increase in
price of natural gas it has become economically feasible in some cases to remove impurities from the methane
and sell it to companies supplying natural gas (methane is chemically the same as natural gas). Due to the
energy that must be used to clean, compress and transport the gas this is usually not as efficient a route for
using methane as feeding it directly into a generator but, unless electric utility companies become willing to
pay a fair price for electricity generated from farm methane, selling gas for pipeline use may become a more
common practice.
Links to websites that provide information or technology for anaerobic digestion