MOTHER's Methane Digester Meets Media

Late in 1973 MOTHER EARTH NEWS hosted a media event to debut a methane generator that Dick Shuttleworth and Ram Bux Singh had been working on for more than a year.

| November/December 1973

  • 024 mother's methan maker 1 methane digester
    This tank was the primary methane digester unit.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 4 storage
    A methane storage tank.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methan maker 3 electric lights
    Electric lights driven by a methane-powered generator.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methan maker 2 running an engine
    Running a small engine on methane.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 5 adjusting equipment
    A technician adjusts the equipment.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 6 cooking
    Cooking on a methane-powered stove.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 7 refrigerator
    A refrigerator adapted to run on methane.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 8 table top demo
    A table-top demonstration of methane generation.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 9 event participant
    An event participant 
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 10 cameraman waiting
    A news cameraman waits for the event to start.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 11 outdoor press conference
    An outdoor press conference.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 12 tableside discussion
    A kitchen table discussion about the potential of methane fuel generation.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 14 engine demo2
    A camera operator moves in for a closer view.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 024 mother's methane maker 13 engine demo1
    A media demonstration of the methane compressor.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 024 mother's methan maker 1 methane digester
  • 024 mother's methane maker 4 storage
  • 024 mother's methan maker 3 electric lights
  • 024 mother's methan maker 2 running an engine
  • 024 mother's methane maker 5 adjusting equipment
  • 024 mother's methane maker 6 cooking
  • 024 mother's methane maker 7 refrigerator
  • 024 mother's methane maker 8 table top demo
  • 024 mother's methane maker 9 event participant
  • 024 mother's methane maker 10 cameraman waiting
  • 024 mother's methane maker 11 outdoor press conference
  • 024 mother's methane maker 12 tableside discussion
  • 024 mother's methane maker 14 engine demo2
  • 024 mother's methane maker 13 engine demo1

OK, folks. After more than a year of setbacks. MOTHER EARTH NEWS' methane generator is now in production. To briefly recap: During the summer of 1972, Ram Bux Singh (head of the Gobar Gas Research Station in northern India) visited the United States. At that time he helped some of MOTHER EARTH NEWS people put together a methane gas generator designed especially for use in the United States and Canada (where the average temperatures—especially during the winter—are lower than the average temperatures experienced in India).

Now the only trouble with this digester was the fact that the fellow who spent so much time telling everyone what a great welder he was ... really wasn't at all. The digestion unit—and its water jacket—leaked like the proverbial sieve; in other words, the instant we tried to put the waste disposal plant into operation ... and we were forced to shelve the whole project until the spring of 1973.

Dick Shuttleworth has now completely redesigned and rebuilt the bio-gas unit, however, and it works like a charm. After only a single loading of cow manure in mid-July, the digester is still producing an average of 41 cubic feet of exceptionally high-quality methane at this writing (mid-November 1973). Which is to say that MOTHER EARTH NEWS' bio-gas plant is working better in nearly all respects than everyone predicted.

On November 2, 1973 a press conference was held on the Shuttleworth farm in Indiana. Representatives of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Farm Journal, Prairie Farmer, Rolling Stone, Earth News, the Associated Press, the Bureau of Mines, the United Auto Workers, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and many local TV stations and newspapers rubbed shoulders with a number of Hoosier farmers who had come to see whether or not "Shuttleworth's Folly" would work.

It did. Everyone was treated to an explanation of the digester's operation and was shown that the "homemade fuel" it produced would cook food on a gas stove, power both natural gas and propane lamps, run a gas refrigerator and furnace and water heater... and drive a 1948 Chevrolet automobile engine. L. John Fry—of South African pig farm fame—was also on hand to demonstrate a model bio-gas plant and tell how he had powered his whole 1,000-hog agricultural operation on methane made from the pigs' droppings.

We had planned to print complete plans for the digester ... but we already know how to put together a much better methane production unit (less cost, less trouble, more gas output) and we now believe that we'd be smarter to build and test the new design and then release it. We'll keep you posted. 






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