Saturday, 3 October 2009

Bio-gas and Aquatic Weeds

KCIS has a number of projects going at the moment, one of the big ones is the production of methane to be used as cooking fuel and a fuel for static petrol engines (generators, borehole pumps, etc.)

In the general scheme of things, methane collectors are fuelled with "organic matter", usually animal waste, of which there is an abundance in Kenya, with cattle and goats being everywhere.

But organic matter also includes plant life, and in particular, a certain aquatic weed that is causing major problems in Kenya, the water hyacinth.

I have not seen it first-hand, but I have read that the shallow waters in Lake Victoria are being choked by this plant, which isn't even native to Africa, let alone Kenya - it originates from South America.

My brain went into overtime when I read this. I was imagining a biogas processing plant somewhere on the shores of Lake Victoria processing tons of water hyacinth and producing methane to power a large power plant, with fertilser as a useful by product.

Not impossible, I admit. Water hyacinth lends itself to producing methane, but it would have to be dried out to some degree, then pulped or chopped up to assist rotting.

And KCIS? We are an organisation of three people with no regular funding. So what can we do to get things started? And of course, a project of this size would probably need government intervention, either at local or national level. And I cannot even imagine what sort of problems that would raise.

Since my first excitement, I have found that there are already organisations working on this, but cannot find out what stage they have reached.

So, I shall return to working on small household or community methane collectors, but I will maintain the dream of one day finding a way to minimise the hyacinth in Lake Victoria while at the same time producing virtually free fuel and fertiliser.

Typha is another water weed that causes problems in water ways. I have been told that it is edible. With the food crisis growing in East Africa, shouldn't someone be looking into this? Or are they? I can find no information, but if you know different, please let me know.


Ssembonge said...

Solar power is probably Kenya's best bet for achieving adequate power supply.

Dad Mzungu said...

Hi Christopher,

I agree that in the long term, a clean, renwable power source is the best, but solar energy is expensive.
We are looking for a cheap, easily installed method of power production that will benefit rural communitites immediately.
A large hyacinth-gobbling power plant on the banks of Victoria is a pipe-dream, but it could happen, solving two problems.