Methane Production: The Rural Gasification Project’s Biogas Workshop

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The New Life Farm's 1979 biogas workshop examined the current state of the art in methane production.

 If you’ve been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS for any time at all, you’re probably familiar with the pioneering research on methane generation documented in this publication’s pages back in the early 1970’s. For example, you might recall the successful biogas generator built by Richard Shuttleworth… which produced combustible fuel for cooking, heating, and even firing an internal combustion engine from nothing more than organic waste materials. Since then, though the magazine has covered a myriad of other alternative energy projects, our research people have been keeping up to date on developments in methane production.

As a matter of fact, one of our staffers recently attended a week-long workshop on gobar (the term is derived from the Hindi word for dung) gas manufacture … arranged by the Rural Gasification Project, a subsidiary of the New Life Farm of Drury, Missouri. The program proved to be valuable enough to convince us that you ought to know about it.

The workshop began with a technical update on methanogenic biochemistry (the basics of keeping gas-producing bacterial cultures active) … then continued with visits to five methane digesters, instruction on the latest in digester design, and some hands-on experience in mixing up a slurry to produce methane gas. Not only was the knowledge transmitted firsthand, but the down-to-earth approach taken by the instructors seemed to suit everyone from farmers to college professors.

Of course, beyond the learning that went on during actual instruction, there was the equally useful exchange of information among the two dozen participants … who ranged from dairy operators to government alternative energy experts, and included such notables as Ram Bux Singh (perhaps the father of methane development in the U.S.). There was near universal agreement in the enthusiastic group that — with the current energy bind in this country — the time for biogas is finally here.

So, armed with the latest information and our own previous experience, MOTHER EARTH NEWS is now building a new digester. Our research crew has been mulling over some exciting possibilities, and by the time summer rolls around we should have our unit in full-scale production.

In fact, MOTHER EARTH NEWS will be offering eight one-day seminars on the production of biogas in which our experts will show you how to build and operate a digester and run everything from gaslights to automobile engines on the renewable fuel.

With all the educational opportunities which are becoming available through workshops like RGP’s and MOTHER EARTH NEWS’, biogas is beginning to make its mark as an alternative fuel. Still, methane is just one example of the fact that you don’t have to depend on limitedly available and increasingly expensive fossil fuels. The materials to produce clean, ecologically sound energy are all around … some of ’em may be trotting through your field right now!