How to Harvest Methane Gas

Written by stacy tabb
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How to Harvest Methane Gas
Cow manure is a source of eco-friendly energy. (cows image by Ludovic LAN from Fotolia.com)

Methane gas, or biogas, is a compound that is released into the air when organic material -- including animal waste, plants and food scraps -- breaks down. When places like farms and landfills release this gas into the atmosphere, it contributes to global warming, but when it is captured and used as fuel, it becomes a green and renewable source of energy that can be used to power homes and businesses.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Animal manure
  • Bucket with tight-fitting cover
  • Rubber tubing
  • Gas collection container
  • Manometer (glass tube pressure gauge)
  • Silicone caulk

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Mix one-third part manure with two-thirds part water together to form a slurry, which is a liquid with particles suspended in it. If the mixture seems more solid than liquid, add more water. It should be thin enough that you can pour it.

  2. 2

    Create a digester using the bucket with the tight-fitting lid. Cut a hole in one side of the lid just large enough to fit the manometer through. Make sure the manometer is not pushed all the way down into the slurry. It will be measuring the pressure from the methane gas, so it should only remain in contact with the air in the top of the bucket.

  3. 3

    Connect the digester to an empty lidded bucket by cutting a hole in each lid and connecting them with a rubber tube. This empty bucket will be the chamber that will collect the methane gas.

  4. 4

    Cut a third hole in the gas chamber bucket and attach a piece of plumbing pipe with a shut-off valve. Ensure that the valve is in the "closed" position so the methane gas does not escape as it is made. This is where you will be able to turn on the gas.

  5. 5

    Caulk around all the holes you made to ensure that there are no air leaks in either bucket.

  6. 6

    Pour the slurry into the digester, and fit the lid on tightly. Ensure that the lid of the gas chamber is also fitted tightly.

  7. 7

    Store the digester in a warm area. Methane gas will be produced with temperatures between 32.2 and 37.8 degrees Celsius. Your manometer will indicate when pressure is starting to build in the chambers, as seen by a water bubble rising in the tube. You will know the methane gas is ready when you turn the valve and put a lit match to its opening. If there is methane in the gas chamber, the match will set fire to the escaping gas.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep your digester and gas chamber in a well-ventilated area. Methane gas is flammable and should not be inhaled.
  • These instructions are for a small-scale, experimental system to collect methane gas. Consult an expert for proper installation should you wish to use methane gas to power your home.

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