Humanure and Biogas harvesting

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Humanure and Biogas harvesting
Author: Menno Houtstra (Rebelfarmer)
Monday, November 03, 2008 - 12:11 pm
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Hi!
For my project in Bulgaria (upgrading outdoor toilets in compost toilets, using sheep dung and chips from young trees and shrub removals) and
after a few days of internet research I conclude that anaerobic digestion is better than just composting. Why? 1. because the quality of the compost seems better (more nitrogen maintained and available instead of evaporation of amonnia gas from normal compost heap), and 2. you retrieve until 1/3 of the carbon in methane gas (instead that it goes directly as CO2 in the atmosphere).

Therefor I found Jean Pauls' method very interesting. But after all those hours of search I still didn' t discover how he did it, and above all: it is that only " dry" anaerobic fermentation I have seen! I don't like so much from usual digestion that you to feed it everyday and that the feed is liquid. The sheep are in a winter stable, so the dung/straw/chips mixture is taken out only once in while. Please enlighten me!

Best,
Menno

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Monday, September 11, 2006 - 11:28 am
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Thanks for posting the info, Rebecca.

Author: Rebecca Norman (Beckyladakh)
Sunday, September 10, 2006 - 5:47 am
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I posted last year about our successful composting toilets in the Himalayas. We've got solar cookers at our campus for about half our cooking needs for about 40 people, and would like to change to a renewable energy for the other half, away from the current petroleum gas. From information I've gathered about biogas:

1) The effluent is composted in terms of plants being able to use it, I am told. But it has NOT heated up so it may still have any pathogens that went it. Biogas is the methane produced by anaerobic composting. I assume the energy that would have gone into heat in aerobic composting goes into creating the energy embodied in methane instead.

2) The effluent of biogas is a slurry, not as easy to transport and distribute by hand as regular compost is, though maybe better for certain machines.

3) Humans don't produce enough manure to fuel their own cooking. Our 40 ppl + 3 cows would probably not even produce enough to cover half of our cooking, I'm told by someone who has done a lot of biogas in Nepal.

We will probably try biogas for just the cow manure initially, so any adjustments to the system will be less offensive to work on. If it's successful, we'll consider adding humanure.

Author: Hari S. Khalsa
Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 7:01 pm
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Hi all,

I haven't yet finished reading my copy of the humanure handbook, but have found it quite enjoyable and am recommending it to all of my friends (and co-workers).

I'm interested in knowing if there is a way to compost humanure and collect biogas in the process. Perhaps there is a mention of biogas in the book. I'm a slow reader, however, and I have to rebuild my bathroom (following a pipe burst that destroyed it), possibly before I'll have time to finish reading the book. I wasn't exactly finiancially ready for this re-modelling so I'm looking at it as an act of God. God must just want me to stop using a conventional bathroom.

I want to make the most of this "opportunity" and not only implement a method for composting but also take into account a method for capturing biogas, if possible. If you, Mr. Jenkins, read this post, can you tell me if you have any experience with this? Or can anyone else point me towards specific resources on how to collect Biogas? I know almost nothing about the subject so, ideally I'd like to find a reference along the lines of Mr. Jenkins' book. A "how to"-type of reference with all the science behind it to back it up, but not needlessly obfuscated.

I'm also interested in utilizing the biogas in the best way. Perhaps using it for heating and cooking, but I think in my state (New Mexico) I could run a generator with the gas and use a net-meter and derive financial benefits from such a system. There are a lot of possibilities, but I thought this would be the best place to start looking for materials, because to me it is more important to stop poluting the environment than to harvest the biogas. So if I can't both compost and harvest the biogas in an environmentally friendly way then I'll definitely choose to just compost.

Thank you,
Hari S. Khalsa

Author: admin
Saturday, February 04, 2006 - 6:49 pm
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You cannot collect biogas from compost. Composting is an aerobic process whereas methane production is an anaerobic process - two entirely different things.

Author: Hari S. Khalsa
Monday, February 06, 2006 - 2:48 pm
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Thank you for the response. This eliminates some confusion I had. I had read in the book that composting was an aerobic process, but I didn't know that methane production is an anaerobic process (pardon my ignorance). Is it possible or worth-while to try and harvest biogas from organic waste (including human excrement) and then compost the resulting material? Or does the methane production/anaerobic process create a byproduct that either can no longer be composted, or can only be composted if additional material is added containing certain microorganisms?

Author: Herb
Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 10:03 am
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I had a similar notion the other day about crap bio-fuel after hearing Bush's SOTU speech and his "plan" for alternative energy (right).

Anyway, I got to thinking about the large city sewage treatment plants around the Nation and whether any of them create any sort of useable bio-gas.

Then I started wondering why everyones •••• can't be turned into some kind of economical fuel considering it is already collected at central locations and is considered "waste." Why not turn sewage plants into fuel plants if that is technically feasible?

Don't get me wrong, I'm "addicted" to composting my own crap, but know the masses will never give it a chance. Plus the sewage system network is already in place, etc.

Author: Larry
Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 1:22 pm
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Washington State University recently received a State grant for $100 K to build a mobile demo bio-gas digester that is designed to accept a range of organic materials from manures to food scraps. a methane fueled generator will produce electricity, while waste heat will warm the digester tanks for greater gas production. It will be interesting to see if this simple technology catches on. More info can be found at: https://researchnews.wsu.edu/physical/22.html

Author: Hari S. Khalsa
Wednesday, February 08, 2006 - 2:06 pm
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Hi Guys,

Thanks for the responses and the enthusiasm. We'd all like to see the most and the best use of this byproduct of human existence. But I am still wondering what is the best use. If we put human excrement through an anaerobic process before attempting to compost it, will we be able to compost it.? If so, to what extent? Also is it even worth while to try it on a small scale, such as an individual family. I know people have built methane generating digesters in rural areas of the planet, usually focusing on a community system. I have also read that it is possible to create your own digester. But if it means you can't later compost the byproduct, then what it the point. Especially since it will not necessarily produce much gas at an individual family level anyway. I read somewhere that it would take 8 occupents contributing their excrement to produce only 40 cents worth of energy daily.

If I can't first harvest methane, then compost, then I'm interested in knowing if anyone has harvested the heat that the thermophiles generate. It seems like this heat source could easily heat hot water. Does anybody care to comment about this.

Thanks.

Author: Ron Mazerolle
Wednesday, February 08, 2006 - 5:11 pm
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Check this link out.
https://www.motherearthnews.com/library/1981_July_August/Compost_Heated_Water_
There are many more sites like this one you can check out. Just do a search on compost heat.

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