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Development of Biogas in Colombia: Phase 3 Prototype Biogas

Infrastructure projects are time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes are money pits if not appropriately managed. Due to this, there is a reluctance to try new technologies or structures for city improvement. But for there to be progress, there needs to be a trial period. Biogas has to be tested in an urban setting to solve problems as they develop before implemented on a bigger scale. Biogas depends on: 


  • Input: All organic material to be broken down by the absence of oxygen. Such as food waste, dairy products, and whey, vegetable leftovers, fish and slaughterhouse waste, solid and liquid manure, poultry manure, poultry manure, energy crops, and sewage. 
  • Temperature: For the production bacteria to create methane, temperatures need to be more than 15° C (59° F). 
  • Composition: It varies depending on substrate composition and conditions within the anaerobic reactor.  
  • Substrate concentration: The amount of substrate present that transforms into a product, used to measure enzyme activity, based on the rate of a reaction (product formed over time). 


The needs for the fabrication varies in different climates. Colder climates need to take extra precautions to avoid the anaerobic digesters to cool down or freeze. An area is required to prototype the production of biogas. It will prevent overbuilding and be a baseline project for future developments. It will serve as an urban laboratory that will measure social, physical, and technological urban and environmental issues.


A prototype project would measure:

  • Amount of input: This will include the amount of sewage, food waste, and any grass clippings produced in the area.
  • Amount of output: This is the amount of energy produced by waste, based on the consumption habits of the residents in the area.
  • Amount of workforce needed: The number of human resources that need education for the oversight of this type of project, including engineers, technician, maintenance worker, and systems managers. 
  • Distribution chains needed: Establishing an efficient local supply chain is critical for future success and the ongoing maintenance for an innovative project. Identifying essential components in a system solution and its local manufacturing is a way to keep costs down for the construction and the support of an anaerobic biogas digester.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions diverted: Calculate the number of tons of CO2 from the waste diverted from landfills. The project can claim a Certified Emissions Reduction (CER), a certificate issued by the United Nations to member nations for preventing one ton of carbon dioxide emissions.  


The selected area has to be already lived in and have an established population, receptive to building a new structure and adaptable to expansion. Beginning with a neighborhood, then expanding to a district.

That is why informal settlements are ideal areas for prototyping biogas. They lack access to essential services, such as sanitation, energy, waste recollection, and transportation. These unplanned settlements are not in compliance with current building and planning regulation and often are occupying land illegally. 

City governments outlook on how to solve the issue of informal settlements range from opposition and eviction to reluctant tolerance and support for legalization and upgrading. For the improvement of these areas, it is necessary to legalize them. This process is long and can take decades for resolution due to lack of information, funding, and interest — a common problem in cities of Colombia and South America.

Local urban governments are central players in the acceptance for the implementation of a prototype biogas structure. Their leadership enables environments to develop and implement appropriate policies to bring change. They connect vital stakeholders, harness local knowledge, enact policies and plans, and manage incremental infrastructure development. By implementing a prototype, there is a more clear picture of the opportunities to reduce municipal costs by properly designed municipal systems for handling sewage and solid waste. 

With city government as the head, a cooperative arrangement with the private sector is necessary, also known as a public-private partnership (PPP). This funding tool is used to share financial risk and the development of innovation.


Key stakeholders for the project would include:

  • Government: As the central player, it would: 


  1. Identify the most problematic area in sanitation, waste management, and contamination
  2. Go through the necessary steps for legalization and policy redaction for the area
  3. To waiver or cover the required permits for the construction of the prototype.
  4. Organize participatory planning meetings for the residents of the area.  


  • Educational Institutions: would include: 


  1. Universities: Two universities are ideal partners to offer training for future engineers, the Universidad National, and Universidad Militar Nueva Granada. They offer most of the literature of biogas in an urban setting in Colombia as a possibility. 
  2. Technological: For technician training, the National Service of Learning (SENA) is an ideal choice. As a public establishment, it offers free technical or technological professional training and development of millions of Colombians. 


  • Private sector: would include:


  1. Biogas Industry: To advance the production of biogas, partnerships with the existing biogas industry are necessary. The current biogas industry focuses mostly on agricultural projects. Managed or developed by Agrogaz, Biotec, and Sauter. The most significant agrarian biogas project is from the Manuelita Group. This organization produces biodiesel and bioethanol carburate. 


There is also the Landfill Doña Juana of Bogota that turns waste into energy by capturing landfill biogas and turned into electricity delivered to residents via the national grid. 

Financed by the Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation (NEFC), the project uses 24% of the proceeds from the sale of carbon emission reduction credits and 4% of electricity sales for social investment in surrounding communities. 


2. Manufacturing Industry: For development costs to be low, a supply chain must be established with the existing manufacturing companies within a 500 miles radius of a project for crucial components and replacements. Companies must be incentivized to innovated and collaborated with the advancement of technology.


3.Chamber of Commerce: The Chamber of Commerce has the objective to advance the economy and integration of the region. A partnership with the chamber can help create economic opportunities for the residents of the area.


  • Residents: Without the participation and input of the residents of the area to prototype biogas, there is no project. There insights, concerns, and suggestions are crucial for biogas implementation in the area. It is essential to establish a culture of transparency, collaboration, exchange of knowledge, and information. 
Niyireth  Torres's picture

Thank Niyireth for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 3, 2019 2:14 pm GMT

Without the participation and input of the residents of the area to prototype biogas, there is no project.

Such a powerful and important point to remember, for this project and really for all new energy development projects

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