India has a population of 1.18 billion individuals which contribute to 17.31 percent of world’s population (Sarina, 2005). India’s electricity energy consumption is more than 145,000 Mega watts which accounts to not less than 3.5 per cent of the global energy consumption placing it at sixth position in global energy consumption. In attempts to meet energy needs various power plants generate energy as follows. Coal contributes 53 per cent, oil accounts for 31 per cent, hydroelectric power plants accounts for 6 percent while natural gas, nuclear and other renewable contribute 8 percent, 1 percent and 1 percent respectively. Supply for electricity energy in India has usually been outstripped by its demand on 7 to 11 percent mark.Indeed, only 40 to 44 percent of the total rural households access electricity. India imports an amazing 71 percent of its oil needs from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Yemen, Kuwait and Iran among other countries totaling about 1.8million bb/d per annum. The country will be in demand of 400, 000 mega watts by 2020 and more than 950, 000 mega watts of power by 2030. The government of India has expressed its 2012 mission of power for all. The 2012 mission on power is expected to enhance achievement of 8 per cent growth in gross domestic product. Rural electrification in states of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and Uttranchal among others is almost complete. With the aforementioned facts and cost implications regarding power inadequacy in India, there is dire need of the government exploring more energy sources. Among the less explored yet cheap source of energy is the bio gas energy (Khusro et al, 2005).
According to Deublein & Steinhauser (2008), biogas originates from biogenic materials where the gas generated through breakdown of organic matter in absence of oxygen. Biogas is a bio fuel. The first biogenic plant was built in 1859 in Bombay India. It was however in England that the biogenic plant was utilized in electricity generation that lit streets in Exeter. In India, the first biogas plant was established in the vicinity of Mumbai although the undertaking was a mere sewerage treatment project. The biogas plant in India may have started generating energy in 1897 although full experimentation occurred in the late 1930’s. The said gas can be manufactured by use of anaerobic digesters that are fed with biodegradable wastes or energy crops like maize silage. During production of biogas, biomass waste material is transformed into methane. The energy is renewable and can be used in various forms of internal combustion engine such as heating and electricity. In fact biogas energy has a 60 percent potential thermal efficiency when used under appropriate aeration and equipment as compared to dung and wood that has 11 percent and 17 percent respectively. The perceived relative cheap cost of maintenance of the biogas plant has proved favorable to India poor villagers.
Biogas plants have been put up in India since 1960’s although the notable dissemination was realized in 1981 after the formation of national project on biogas development. This notable dissemination was probably a reflection of fuel-wood shortage in the country at the time. The government of India considers biogas technology as a tool to alleviate rural poverty and a stimulant rural development. The government through the relevant bodies has facilitated setting up of approximately two and a half million biogas plants across the country. However, large scale production of biogas technology is yet to be realized. According to Pachauri (2007), use of biogas for cooking only accounts for 3 and 2 percents for India’s urban and rural populations. The later is definitely an indication that biogas as an alternative fuel is poorly disseminated. Generally, dissemination of biogas technology is through system of concessions and subsidies despite the differences among states. There are also community plants for biogas disseminations which have achieved considerable success levels. However, community plants face logistical challenges in their coordination as well as political feuds. Indeed, biogas programs may not meet the needs of the marginalized and poorest populations since technical requirements for establishment and maintenance of viable plants are inaccessible to them. Although the government assists in biogas plants establishments, its effect has not been felt in many poor homesteads.
Only five percent of the total population utilizes biogas technology. The rate of success is higher among urban population. Higher levels of success are realized in urban places mainly because of two factors (Nijaguna, 2002). The first reason is that the urban population is more informed of the benefits of biogas technology as compared with other sources of energy. Second, poverty level is lower in urban set-ups as compared to rural areas. The initial capital for establishing a biogas plant and the associated dissemination is usually high for the poor rural populations. Failure of the biogas technology in utilizing its full potential in India is attributed to several factors. To start with, harsh climatic conditions that cause drought reduce availability of dung which is the most common raw material for biogas plant. Drought results to death and forced sale of cattle subsequently reducing dung availability. Second, biogas plants are faced with winter seasons which inhibit methanogenesis process which is responsible in biogas production. Third, many plants are shoddy constructed rendering them faulty and non-functional. Shoddy construction may be attributed to irresponsibility among government officers charged with overseeing construction of community biogas plants as well as other undertakings related to biogas plants establishment. In addition, many individuals lack the necessary expertise in construction and operation. This has led to eventual failure of biogas plants due to such mal practices such as construction of extensively large plants and subsequent underfeeding of the plant with dung. Furthermore, use of cattle in the fields poses a challenge to the collection of dung for biogas plants.
India has approximately four hundred and ninety million livestock species comprising of buffalo, cattle, sheep and pig among others. In fact, livestock in India accounts for 53 percent in buffalo population and close to 16 percent of cattle population. Due to utilization of livestock for other purposes, only 35 percent of livestock are reared in a closet enabling dung collection. Ideally, dung deficiency may be supplemented with septic tanks. However the traditional arguments hinder utilization of human feaces in energy production. The raw materials have been used with an average forty seven percent efficiency in production of biogas energy. According to Khusro et al (2005), only half the numbers of constructed biogas plants are functional in producing maximum biogas energy possible. Indeed, in a sample of 1670 biogas plants, 1086 of them were disqualified under feasibility criteria.
Biogas has two major varieties classified according to the production process. The earliest biogas plant form was landfill gas (LPG). LPG is produced during decomposition of organic substances. The resultant products are methane gas, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Usually LPG is accidentally produced when biomass is deposited for disposal under normal circumstances. When venting of LPG is uncontrolled during decomposition of disposed biomass on land, re-cultivation of such a land site is hampered. The second biogas plant utilizes sewage sludge. The production process in sewage gas involves fermentation of sludge in septic tanks at temperatures between thirty two and thirty four (Deublein & Steinhauser, 2008). The output from the later plant comprises of 55 percent methane, 35 percent carbon dioxide and negligible residue quantities. Sewage gas is purified and compressed if found to contain significant amounts of contaminants before use.
With the increasing environmental concerns, bio gas plans help in reducing destruction of forests caused by over dependence of firewood as a source of energy. Furthermore, Biogas is a clean form of energy that reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide in the environment. Socially, biogas significantly reduces the burden of women who are usually charged with cooking among the Indian population. Furthermore, although the initial costs of biogas plant establishment are high, the operational and maintenance costs are significantly lower compared to other sources (Chandra, 2004).