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Energy from organic materials

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Biogas is a biofuel, and usually means a mixture of methane and hydrogen produced by using bacteria to break down organic material.

How it works

Waste material is digested in the absence of oxygen (we call it "anaerobic conditions") by bacteria. We also call this process "fermentation". It works best at around 35~40 degrees Celsius.

The gas produced depends on the material you started with.

  • If you start with manure, sewage or "green waste" from your garden, you get mainly methane and carbon dioxide

  • If you start with wood or other biomass, you get "wood gas" which is nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and a little methane
Video clip: Biogas - how it works



Video clip: "Poo-powered car"

Human waste (that's sewage) can generate a lot of methane.

The gas can be used to power vehicles, as shown in the video clip.

Read the BBC news article here

Biogas from human waste can also be used in the home, in place of the methane gas that's normally piped in.

Near Didcot in Oxfordshire, when you flush the toilet, off it goes to the waste treatment plant where the solid waste is separated from the other sewage, then digested by bacteria to produce methane.

The methane is then cleaned and perfumed, and used in local homes that same as usual.

Read the BBC news article here

Video clip: Landfill gas - how it's done

Rubbish in landfill sites (we used to call them "rubbish tips") decomposes and creates methane gas.

There are now regulations forcing councils to deal with this gas and not simply let it escape into the atmosphere - methane is a worse "greenhouse gas" than carbon dioxide.

The "landfill gas" can be captured and used in homes and businesses.

Here's a BBC News article about a scheme in Northern Ireland.

  • It makes sense to use waste materials where we can.

  • The methane gas from the waste would otherwise end up in the atmosphere - and methane is a worse "greenhouse gas" than carbon dioxide.

  • The fuel tends to be cheap.

  • Less demand on the fossil fuels.


  • We burn the biogas, so it makes greenhouse gases just like fossil fuels do.

Is it renewable?

Biogas is renewable, as we're going to carry on making waste products anyway.


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