Biogas proves a success in rural Bhutan

Business Environment

Firewood harvesting and use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has decreased significantly in the country’s rural pockets with the introduction of biogas.

In 2011, the Bhutan Biogas Project introduced biogas plants in the country with an objective to provide a sustainable energy source for households with livestock and help them reduce their dependency on firewood and expensive fossil fuels.

The first biogas project had failed two decades ago but has now returned to replace imported LPG and firewood in thousands of rural homes across the country today.

One of the beneficiaries of biogas is Tika Ram Chuchungsa from Sangngachhoeling Gewog in Samtse who have been using the biogas stove for the last 10 years and continues using it.

The 65-year old said the stove has made him less dependent on firewood and LPG. With his stove installed in his kitchen, he said it is easier to use and also affordable. “Only when the cow dung is finished do we resort to LPG otherwise LPG is an option for us. Officials from the agriculture department taught us how to use the equipment while the mason built it for us,” he said.

Sangngachhoeling gewog today has 48 people using biogas stoves since it was introduced in 2012. With the successful implementation of the project, 38 biogas stoves are in the process of being constructed.

Biogas is produced through the processing of various types of organic waste and raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste or food waste. Biogas comprises primarily of methane and carbon dioxide.

A household using biogas is expected to save 2,000kg of firewood; 2,555 liters of kerosene, 164.25kg of LPG, and 1,460KW of electricity a year.

Bhutan consumes about 1.2mn tons of fuel-wood a year- 70% of which is used by households for cooking and heating.

Today are more than 5,000 plus biogas plants across the country. The biogas program was reintroduced in Bhutan in 2011 with support from Asian Development Bank to reduce destruction of forests and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to an official from the Department of Renewable Energy, the program is a success among the rural people and the number of users has increased compared to the past.

Kalyan Pradhan, Sangngachhoeling gup of Samtse district said his gewog saw increase in the number of biogas user since it has multiple benefits.

The biogas plant’s design comes in four sizes: four, six, eight, and 10 Cubic Meters (CuM). The most popular size with villagers is the six CuM plant that costs about Nu 45,000.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu

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