Biogas: Progress being made to harness future fuel

Energy: Biogas has returned after the project failed in the 1980s.

In the last six years, livestock department’s Bhutan Biogas Project (BBP) has so far installed 3,176 plants in 17 dzongkhags, including 2,921 plants for individual villagers and another 246 under various funding from non-government organisations and international agencies.

The return of the project has brought about major changes in the lives of the villagers. By the end of the project, about 3,630 plants would be established and BBP estimates show they will save about Nu 103.6 million a year by substituting other fuels.

A survey last year has found that with biogas a person can now save up to three hours of household chores.

BPP’s project director, Dorji Gyaltshen, said: “Users were satisfied with biogas technology with no identification of any disadvantages.”

“The biogas plants also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions with improved manure management,” Dorji Gyaltshen said.

BBP officials said that with biogas a household can save 2,000 kilogrammes of firewood, 255.5 litres of kerosene and 164.25 kilogrammes of liquefied petroleum gas, and 1,460 kilowatt hours of electricity in a year.

“About 5,000kg of carbon dioxide equivalent would be reduced in a year,” Dorji Gyaltshen said.


The output from the biogas plant increases crop yield by at least 20 percent and construction of the plants generate employment.

The BBP trained 206 livestock officials and 447 masons from villages.

“We’re now going to rural areas as we have covered most places with road access,” Dorji Gyaltshen said.

For research and development of biogas, the project has two plants in Haa, one in Bumthang and a medium scale plant each in Samtse and Gelephu.

The biogas will qualify for credits under the clean mechanism development (CDM), opening opportunities for Bhutanese to earn from their plants. This, the BBP officials said, could happen by mid-2018.

“We need to establish at least 5,000 biogas plants to avail of the facility,” Dorji Gyaltshen said.

The government piloted projects in Samtse, Chukha, Tsirang, Dagana, and Sarpang by establishing 1,600 plants for USD 1.5 million from March 2011 to February 2014.

Between March 2014 and December 2015, 1,200 plants were established in Trashigang, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjongkhar, Trashiyangtse, Mongar, Lhuentse, Punakha, and Wangdue.

This year, in the third phase of the project, 800 plants will be established.

Villagers can avail of a collateral-free loan of Nu 20,000 from Bhutan Development Bank (BDBL) for a plant with 10 percent interest payable in three years.

The project provides technical support through gewog livestock extension officials who visit the plants regularly, and help with repair and maintenance. The plant has a warrantee of three years and after-constructions-services also for three years.

An attempt was made during late 1980s by installing 50 biogas plants in Lhamoidzingkha, Dagana. It failed because of the lack of a responsible institution to carry out follow up and advisory services, training of masons, supervisors, users and after-sale services.

“No further attempt was made to reintroduce biogas until the start of BBP in 2011,” Dorji Gyaltshen said.

The objectives were to contribute to national aim of reduction of poverty level by improving livelihoods and quality of life of rural farmers, to reduce impact of biomass resource depletion, to support national goals of food production and livestock development, to improve health and hygiene and to increase the number of family sized, quality biogas plants.

BBP establishes the plants with support from the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE). The project is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation provides technical assistance.

The project officials said farmers’ poor understanding of biogas technology, geographical areas, weather and no private sector to shoulder the construction and appliance production are some of the challenges limiting the progress.

“Biogas appliances and production of accessories will be collaborated with Farm Machinery Corporation Limited,” Dorji Gyaltshen said.

The other issue is that this technology is not unaffordable for poor farmers because of the high construction and transportation charges. The government provides a subsidy of Nu 11,700 for every biogas plant.

Tshering Palden