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Frequently Asked Questions

What is biogas?

Biogas is a combustible gaseous fuel that is collected from the microbial degradation of organic matter in anaerobic conditions.  Biogas is principally a mixture of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) along with other trace gases.  Biogas can be collected from landfills, covered lagoons, or enclosed tanks called anaerobic digesters.

What can biogas be made from?

Biogas is commonly made from animal manure, sludge settled from wastewater, and at landfills containing organic wastes.  However, biogas can also be made from almost any feedstock containing organic compounds, both wastes and biomass (energy crops).  Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids are all readily converted to biogas.  Many wastewaters contain organic compounds that may be converted to biogas including municipal wastewater, food processing wastewater and many industrial wastewaters.  Solid and semi-solid materials that include plant or animal matter can be converted to biogas.

Can biogas be used in place of fossil fuels? How?

Methane is the principal gas in biogas.  Methane is also the main component in natural gas, a fossil fuel. Biogas can be used to replace natural gas in many applications including: cooking, heating, steam production, electrical generation, vehicular fuel, and as a pipeline gas.  

Why aren't we doing more with biogas? What are the barriers to increasing biogas production and use?

Biogas is being collected and used to generate electricity or steam at many landfills, wastewater plants and breweries in Florida.  However, many opportunities for biogas production are yet to be implemented.  Until recently, the low cost of fossil fuels has hindered implementation of biogas production.  There is a limited awareness of the potential and advantages of biogas production by citizens, government officials, and in the business sector that has limited interest in biogas production.  More education, demonstration and investment in biogas technology would help overcome these barriers.

How much biogas can be produced in Florida annually?

The broad types of wastes and biomass feedstocks that are suitable for production of biogas and limited data on production levels and biogas yields make it difficult to accurately calculate the total amount of biogas, which can be produced in the state.  If the annual biogas potential from only municipal wastewater, dairy manure, poultry manure, MSW, and energy crops is estimated, a rough potential of 205.7 billion cu ft of natural gas equivalent results, which is half of the 400 billion cu ft of natural gas used for electrical generation in Florida in 2003. 

What are the environmental impacts of producing/using biogas?

Biogas production can reduce the pollution potential in wastewater by converting oxygen demanding organic matter that could cause low oxygen levels in surface waters.  Nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorous are conserved in biogas effluents and can be used to displace fertilizers in crop production.

Does biogas contribute to climate change?

While combustion of biogas, like natural gas, produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, the carbon in biogas comes from plant matter that fixed this carbon from atmospheric CO2.  Thus, biogas production is carbon-neutral and does not add to greenhouse gas emissions.  Further, any consumption of fossil fuels replaced by biogas will lower CO2 emissions.   

Can I make/use biogas at home or at my place of business?

Biogas can be made at home or at a business from food waste, yard and grass trimmings, and some organic solid wastes.  However, efficient use of biogas is more readily accomplished at larger scales.  A typical home might cook for an hour per day on biogas from home waste sources.

How much does biogas cost to make?

Current prices for natural gas are around $7 per 1000 cuft. Depending on the particular application this is very similar to current estimates for the cost of biogas production.

Where can I go to get more information?

More specific information can be found on this site and at the provided links.