This week's Blog spotlights Biogas and the potential opportunities that implementing technology in that field might yield for Processors and Growers in the Food and Beverage Industry and related Agri-Food Sectors. A subject certainly worth exploring for anyone interested in environmental and waste management practices!
This week Ross Cooper, our SR&ED Business Advisor, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with an organization that represents companies in Germany who are interested in sharing their technology with others in Canada. Of particular interest is the work that they are doing in the field of Biogas and the opportunities that it might afford those in the Food and Beverage Industry or those working with Organic materials in general.
This is an interesting field and one that I am certainly not well acquainted with but definitely interested in learning more about. The opportunities from an environmental and waste management perspective certainly intrigued both Ross and I. As such, the quest for knowledge began! For those who are looking for a definition of Biogas, Webster's Dictionary defines it as a "mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by bacterial decomposition of organic wastes and used as a fuel…" Essentially, the organic waste decomposes naturally by anaerobic bacteria and a methane gas results. The more detailed Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biogas) version follows directly below along with a diagram that explains the process in a simplified form which you can access online at http://www.makinemekanik.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/biogas-cycle.JPG.
One type of biogas is produced byanaerobic digestion orfermentation of biodegradable materials such asbiomass,manure orsewage,municipal waste,green waste andenergy crops. This type of biogas comprises primarilymethane andcarbon dioxide. The other principal type of biogas iswood gas which is created by gasification of wood or other biomass. This type of biogas is comprised primarily ofnitrogen,hydrogen, andcarbon monoxide, with trace amounts ofmethane.
The gases methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be combusted or oxidized with oxygen. Air contains 21 percent oxygen. This energy release allows biogas to be used as a fuel. Biogas can be used as a low-cost fuel in any country for any heating purpose, such as cooking. It can also be used in modernwaste management facilities where it can be used to run any type ofheat engine, to generate either mechanical or electrical power. Biogas can be compressed, much likenatural gas, and used to powermotor vehicles and in the UK for example is estimated to have the potential to replace around 17 percent of vehicle fuel. Biogas is arenewable fuel, so it qualifies for renewableenergy subsidies in some parts of the world.
The methane gas produced from this "clean" process can then be used for power and heat subsequently replacing our traditional sources. From an environmental perspective, this natural process could then reduce pollution, greenhouse gases and odours. The opportunities beyond having a green and renewable energy source (which could be a saleable product), also includes the transformation of waste organic product into a highly organic specialty bio-fertilizer.
If you are interested in learning more about Biogas in general, the OMAFRA Website provides an overview along with information on a Financial Assistance Plan in place and Biogas Processor Operator Training that is currently available: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/biogas.
The internet also yields a considerable number of articles, one particular site that may be of interest includes a Newsletter called the Biogas Digester (http://biogas-digester.com) that shares information on Biogas and Biogas Digesters. There are also several video clips available for those of you who are You-Tube friendly - one in particular comes from the Anaerobic Digester organization and can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYmOb4mDdUE. This video clip provides a basic overview on how Anaerobic Digestion Plants function and shows some agricultural implementations in Europe as examples.
A final thought that interestingly enough, there is already a successfully functioning Anaerobic Digestion plant in Toronto which is utilizing the organic waste materials from the population of the GTA!
If this is a subject that intrigues you and you would like to explore it further, please let us know and perhaps we can focus on it in more detail in one of our upcoming EMC Food and Beverage SIG Events.
On behalf of my colleague Ross and I, have an environmentally friendly day!