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.
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.