Figure 1: A burning stove for cooking
Methane gas is a very combustible naturally forming hydrocarbon which chemically consists of one carbon atom plus four hydrogen atoms and with the chemical formula of (Ch4). Natural gas which most of the people are familiar with consists of up to 90% methane gas. Besides, this gas is a greenhouse gas which in large quantities contributes to air pollution and climate change. However, methane is a very useful gas that can be used as cooking gas, transportation fuel, and lighting energy.
Gas tanks which contain cooking fuel
In the context of Somali society, there are two ways which methane gas can be harvested and utilized as biogas energy specifically for cooking and lighting to replace charcoal:
1. The first one is to utilize biomasses like manure, fruit and food leftovers, which are known otherwise as a natural or organic waste decomposition to produce biogas. During the composition process, different seriated tanks are installed, where the first tank which is called anaerobic digester decomposes the organic waste and passes the produces biogas to the second tank that stores the gas. The digestate or leftover sludge is used as fertilizer, and the resultant product, which is pure methane gas, can be utilized as energy for electricity and transportation fuel. To use methane gas for cars and other transport-related machines, the motor has to be transformed to adopt gas as fuel energy.
Car engines can be converted to run with gas fuel
2. The second option is to utilize pit latrines, (boosaneero) in Somali, which stores human waste and acts as a digester tank to produce methane gas, as a biogas production system. This biogas generated from pit latrines or septic tanks can produce enough methane gas for cooking household meals. Not only it will be free energy for the family, but it also will save thousands of trees burned as charcoal daily.
Photo Credit: Andrea Davis
Harvesting methane gas as biogas from pit latrines and septic tanks for household cooking energy is very simple and cost-effective. This system may cost a family less than $600 – $800 one time investment to build their own biogas production system. For some families, there is a possibility to produce more than their needs and thus sell to their neighbors.
This article explores the availability of pit latrines in the country, its liability as a health hazard as a major contaminant, and how it can be utilized as household energy to convert its hazardous quality to benefit. What is more, methane gas is cheap and cost-effective to harvest; and the advantage is to save the environment and have the benefit of a free gas as an alternative to charcoal.