Backyard biogas converter turns household food scraps into cooking gas
An Israeli startup is looking to help families turn their food scraps into cooking gas. HomeBioGas Ltd has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring a compact biogas converter to urban and rural areas in developed countries, and to underserved communities in developing countries. According to the company, the HomeBiogas system can turn kitchen leftovers and livestock manure into natural liquid fertilizer and clean gas for cooking, lighting and water heating.
The HomeBiogas system is shipped in a box for DIY setup. According to the founders, two people can assemble the digester in about 2-3 hours, although the gas pipe needs to be connected to the stove by a licensed gas technician. Existing gas stoves can be converted to use biogas by taking out the pressure-reducing nozzle.
In areas where the average day/night temperature is above 66° F (17° C), HomeBiogas claims its anaerobic system can digest up to 6 liters (1.6 US gal) of food waste or 15 liters (4 US gal) of animal manure to create approximately 3 hours of cooking biogas per day. The system also produces "a clean, natural liquid fertilizer" as a by-product of the digestive process.
Performance drops in cooler climates, but conceivably, the unit could be used in a well-ventilated and warm space, such as a greenhouse.
Ami Amir from HomeBioGas marketing and business development told Gizmag the HomeBioGas system is the only small biogas system that has ever achieved the European CE stamp of approval for safety. "We received this approval after a very thorough review by a biogas safety engineer, and then an audit by a European Laboratory who monitored the design, materials, manufacturing practices and final testing," Amir says. "We passed with flying colors."
The system produces methane gas at a concentration of 65 percent under very low pressure (20 millibars). "Due to the low pressure, there is nothing that can explode," Amir says. "Even if there is a leak, since methane is lighter than air, it immediately evaporates and gets dissipated in the atmosphere."
When the founders demonstrated the system to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, he provided them with a staggering statistic. According to a World Health Organization report from 2012, 4.3 million women and children die every year from the effects of air pollution created by cooking with solid fuels, such as wood, charcoal and coal.
Cooking on wood fires is also often a labour intensive process for women and children, as wood has to be gathered and carried. In some countries, the need for wood for cooking fires contributes significantly to deforestation.
HomeBioGas has since worked with a number of NGO's to install the system in underserved rural areas in the Middle East and Africa. "Our most exciting project involved providing clean cooking gas and lamp light to very poor Bedouin communities in the Palestinian Authority," Amir says.
The company's goal is to fit not only the requirements of families in developed countries looking to reduce their carbon footprint, but also people in underserved communities everywhere.
"The only real difference between the two streams is in the 'go to market' process," says Amir. "In the developing countries, we are building relations with NGOs and government institutions, while in the more affluent countries, we are creating the distribution channels that can fulfil end user purchases."
The Indigogo campaign has already passed its US$100,000 goal with over three weeks left to run. The $890 pledge level has sold out, leaving the $945 level the minimum required to reserve a system. However, this is still a big saving from the planned retail price of $1,500. If all goes to plan, backers will receive their systems from May 2016.
The video below gives an overview of the HomeBioGas system.