More than 25,000 biogas plants have been set up in Bangladesh. However, most of them are family-size and only used for cooking burners.
Over 2,000 of these biogas plants have been constructed on poultry farms. In these cases the main purpose of the plants is not only the generation of gas; the plants are a necessity because of the bad odour that poultry droppings spread in the area and due to other environmental aspects.
A feasibility study (GTZ-PURE, 2005) conducted a financial analyses of plants with 100 – 50,000 birds came to the following conclusions:
- Larger farms may go for electricity production, but selling of gas is more profitable.
- With 500 birds and above, all plants are financially acceptable with gas sale alone but none of the plants is viable if only electricity or only fertilizer is sold.
- Selling electricity is economical viable only with additional sales of at least one of the other two products: gas or fertilizer (assumption: only 50% of the gas is used for electricity generation).
- Regarding the financing options the feasibility study concludes that most of the poultry farm owners are capable of financing biogas plants on their own. The small farmers will, however, prefer micro-financing.
- These feasibility findings from 2005 correspond quite well with the actual development as there are first examples of electricity generation from biogas in poultry farms.
The Advance Animal Science Co. Ltd. (AAS), a dairy and poultry farm in Kashimpur of Gazipur district supported by GTZ, has an electricity grid connection but additionally generates power from biogas using cow dung and chicken droppings as feedstock. In order to generate power, the biogas is being passed through a traditional gas generator set with minor modifications.
According to press reports (bangladesheconomy.wordpress.com) this electricity co-generating biogas plant is profitable with a payback period of about 1.5 years. Installation costs of the plant were about Tk 250,000. Only one-third of the plant’s capacity is used for electricity generation and creates savings of about Tk 4,000 per month only by lowering the electricity bill. Obviously, the financial contribution of the by-products such as bio-fertilizer and the gas provided to some cooking burners in the neighbourhood is considerable.
From a financial perspective not easily accountable are the additional effects:
- Enhancement of environmental security in the farm area and the remove of bad smells.
- Becoming independent of the erratic power supply from the national grid.
- The biogas power plant of Advance Animal Co. is the second one after a similar pilot project in Faridpur started two years earlier.
As a result of these first pilot projects expectations in Bangladesh are high. AAS estimates that a poultry farm with 5,000 birds could generate 5 kW of electricity. Selling electricity in the neighbouring areas seems to be economically viable from an output of 10 kW. According to the press reports GTZ Senior Adviser Khurshed-Ul-Islam, who modified the engine, estimates that the biogas technology can help generate 50 MW power from around 10,000 medium-sized poultry farms in Bangladesh. How realistic these perspectives are cannot be assessed within the limit of this paper.
Low-cost bank loans would further help but were not a necessary precondition. If a bank was to find it a viable project, it would come up with finance. And there was no need to seek government intervention in promoting the biogas-based power plants as it would only make things complicated.
It is unclear if this technology would also be useful in the off-grid remote areas of the country.
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