Over the last decades, international development organisations have been actively engaged in encouraging biogas technologies in the developing world.
The development partners underscored the rising need for the reduction of pollution and re-use of Biodegradable organic Feedback (BoF), particularly in Africa.
According to them, bioenergy constitutes a significant proportion of energy mix of countries in Europe, America and should be replicated in Africa.
This development necessitated the adaptation of technologies that can transform BoF such as, food and agro-related waste, sewage sludge and municipal organic waste into valuable products like bioenergy and biofertiliser.
Experts in the field observed that Egypt, Algeria, South Africa and Kenya have made good success in the areas of biogas generation for domestic cooking and bioelectricity generation.
It was, therefore, not an accident when in 2015 the Federal Government, as parts of Nigeria’s Economy Recovery and Growth Plan, mandated the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to design programmes for the nation’s bioenergy advancement.
The focus of NABDA in this regard was clear – to develop prototype digesters and other systems that will utilise the abundant BoF across the country.
Specifically, the agency was given the mandate to ensure that bioenergy, comprising ethanol and biogas constitute five per cent of Nigeria’s energy mix.
In a breakthrough, NABDA on July 23 unveiled a prototype Digesters and Process Optimisation Test Systems to serve as alternative energy in rural and urban settlements of the country.
The Acting Director-General of the agency, Prof. Alex Akpa, who performed the unveiling ceremony in Abuja, said the unique product known as prototype digester was developed by the Environmental Biotechnology and Bio-Conservation Department of NABDA.
Akpa noted that the product was built for households, small and medium scale enterprises such as restaurants, small farms, small artisanal clusters and small abattoirs.
“The biodigester is quite affordable, the smallest size is about N75,000 while the biggest is about N150,000.
“We are ready for the market. We are hopeful that industrialists could partner with us to achieve mass production,’’ he said.
The acting D-G said the prototype bio-digesters have been developed with all sectors in mind comprising three sizes produced and named BEGS 250 litres, BEGS 500 litres and BEGS 1,000 litres.
“The team has developed the capacity to retrofit existing gasoline and diesel generator to use biogas as fuel for electricity generation.
“The technology can transform biodegradable organic feedstock into valuable products such as biogas and bio-fertiliser.
He assured that the agency would continue to provide technical assistance in all aspects of bio-energy development in the country and ensure the digesters and test systems are produced in quantities that would be affordable.
Mr Ayodele Oluwole explained that biodigester is designed as a closed system, capable of fermenting biodegradable materials placed inside it to produce a renewable energy source.
Oluwole, a biogas technologist, said organic materials such as agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste or food waste are broken down in the biodigester to produce biogas which is mixture of gasses – methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
He said the energy released, through combustion allows biogas to be used as a fuel that could be used for any heating purpose, such as cooking.
Oluwole added that it could also be used in a gas engine to convert the energy in the gas into electricity.
“In advanced usage, biogas can also be compressed, the same way as natural gas is compressed and used to power motor vehicles.
“In the United Kingdom for example, biogas is estimated to have the potential to replace around 17 per cent of vehicle fuel,’’ he said.
Mrs Gloria Obioh, the Head of the department that championed the innovation, allayed the fear of readily available raw materials for the biodigester.
Obioh said organic wastes including sewage sludge account for about 50 per cent of municipal solid wastes in Nigeria.
She added that agricultural waste, manure, plant material and green waste are readily available in rural settlements of the country.
“The project has enhanced capacity for job creation across all value chains – digester fabrication, energy generation, waste management and bio-fertiliser production.
“Consequently, there would be several spin-off industries which would contribute greatly to Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and National Development,’’ she said.
Obioh also noted that, if developed, Anaerobic Digestion Technology (ADT) would contribute up to 20,000 MW of electricity to the national grid.
The Executive Vice Chairman of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Prof Mohammed Haruna, urged NABDA to perfect the technology and make the products available to end users.
Stakeholders in the sector believe that the breakthrough by NABDA will be whole when the agency makes the products affordable and available as an alternative energy source to rural and urban settlements.
By Olasunkanmi Onifade