A Modest Experiment in Methane Gas Production

For all the folks who want to find out firsthand if decaying garbage will actually and truly and honestly and really produce burnable methane, here is a modest experiment in methane gas production.


| March/April 1973



020-049-01

The parts of a digester and collector in a very simple methane gas production system.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Ain't no doubt about it. . . if MOTHER EARTH NEWS' mail is any indication, an awful lot of folks want to know how to recycle home and farm wastes into high-quality fertilizer and methane gas for fuel. The only trouble is that—at this point—very few people in the United States and Canada know exactly how to go about the undertaking.

How big should a digester-generator be? What materials are best for its construction? Is the "batch" or "continuous feed" loading cycle most efficient? Can human waste be processed in a digester? Should the unit be above or below ground? Will the processor produce an odor problem? Can a house really be heated with the gas that is taken from decayed organic matter? Will the fuel power an internal combustion engine? Would it work better driving a steam powerplant? The questions pouring into our mailbox are endless.

Well, if you're a regular MOTHER reader, you know that—in an effort to pin down firm answers to such queries—we asked Ram Bux Singh (the world authority on farm and village-size methane generators) to help us build a prototype digester for MOTHER EARTH NEWS last summer. Singh's design—constructed almost entirely of recycled and scrap materials—was a marvel of low-cost, do-it-yourself engineering . . . and we had hoped to be able to pass some operational facts and figures along to you by now.

The only trouble is that the "expert" welder (no, we still won't tell you his name) who spent so much time telling us what a great job he was doing on the digester's water jacket . . . didn't do a great job at all. Matter of fact, it was an unbelievably lousy job and the whole generator is still—at this point—worthless for experimental purposes.

Come the first warm day in spring, though, we're gonna roll it out and fabricate a new water jacket for the critter . . . and, by fall, we should know a lot more than we do now about designing and building and operating a do-it-yourself methane gas station.

In the meantime, for all the folks who want to find out firsthand if decaying garbage will actually and truly and honestly and really produce burnable methane . . . here is Robert C. McMahon's modest experiment in methane gas production.

brian duvall
2/1/2009 5:03:29 PM

My 16 year old son Scott did his high school science project on maximizing methane production as a renewable energy source. You can see his actual experiment on www.youtube.com keyword "maximizing methane". It took second place in his category. Check it out. Gives me hope that our kids will figure out how to save the world one day.


james_1
7/3/2008 4:13:33 AM

We are alternative Power specialists, based in South Africa, and we are very eager to introduce alternative renewable energy options to the SA market. Are you able to introduce us to respectible importers/manufacturers of methane gas,solar,wind power generation products?


joe_33
1/10/2008 5:16:12 PM

I FOUND THIS AFTER SEARCHING FOR PRESSURE COOKER LIDS FOR METHANE PRODUCTION. I WILL CUT THE BOTTOM OUT OF A PRESSURE COOKER AND BOLT IT TO A 55 GALLON PLASTIC DRUM.


ralph_16
1/8/2008 6:03:55 PM

In the past I heard that in the future, methane would be produced off of your Septic tank. Do you have any experiments retrofitting 1000 gallon septic tanks for methane use? thanks Mom


mitzi_3
9/24/2007 10:42:57 AM

I have an home experiment idea for the recycling of turning cat waste into fertilizer. I'm shredding newspapers for their cat litter. I can fill a large pressure cooker(never to be used for human consumption again) 3/4 full with the paper/cat waste mixture. Add water. Attach cooker lid. The lid will have a pressure gauge & thermometer and a copper tube affixed to the relief valve with the pressure set at 20lbs. I will blow up a black inner tube and set the cooker inside the hole of the innertub in the back yard where it will get lots of sun for heat. I'll check my methane tube perodically to monitor cooking. When methane production has ceased I will use the waste for fertilizer. If I can figure out how to capture, compress & bottle the methane then I will have a little homemade digester, turning unusable cat waste into a great fertilizer and I'll use the methane in a gas cylinder for outdoor cooking. I just need to figure out how to compress the gas to get it into the bottle. It may take me a few years to make a bottle of methane at this rate, but if all else fails I'll just burn the methane off so as not to release it directly into the atmosphere. I'm going to start this experiment next spring when it starts warming up again.


luke_4
4/8/2007 5:02:02 AM

would it be possible to generate methane from the A & A WORM FARM SYSTEM (www.wormfarm.com.au)






dairy goat

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