Senior government officials visit innovative, larger size biodigester pilot in Ethiopia

On 6 August 2021, biogas programme staff in Ethiopia were honoured to receive a visit from senior government officials to assess progress in a large scale biodigester pilot.

Dr. Frehiwot Woldehanna, State Minister of Water, Mines, and Energy, Mamo Dogiso, Advisor to the State Minister of Agriculture, and Director of Soil Fertility Directorate, Tefera Solomon, visited the pilot that is part of the Biogas Scale-Up Dissemination Programme (NBPE+).

According to Melis Teka, NBPE+ Deputy Team Leader, the objective of the visit was to facilitate learning and harmonisation to ensure effective larger size bio-digester pilot implementation and scale-up. The project is piloting these larger bio-digesters for commercial and public institutions for consumptive as well as productive use of biogas and bio-slurry.  

The state minister acknowledged that productive use is usually associated with solar therefore the practice of linking biogas with dairy is innovative. The knowledge gained from Melkam Endale Dairy Farm and Milk Processing Plc is a great “reference” for future initiatives.     

Innovative Reference

NBPE+ is piloting 40 large-size bio-digesters in Amahra, Oromia, Tigray and SNNPR regions. So far, 21 larger-size bio-digesters are under different stages of construction. Out of which eight are completed and commissioned. The state minister visited four larger size bio-digesters in the Oromia region, near Addis Ababa.

In 2020, the first two larger size bio-digesters, 80M3 at Sululuta and 60M3 at Sebeta, were handed over to their respective owners. Melkam Endale Dairy Farm and Milk Processing Plc, which has an 80M3 larger size bio-digester at Sululta, purchased a biogas generator to generate electric power for the cold chain and the incubation room of the milk processing unit. Since May 2021, the processing company is generating 16-Kilowatt (KW) electricity from its 80m3 bio-digester. This is a major development in Ethiopia and should encourage others to start using biogas for electricity generation as part of on and off-grid solutions.    

On the other hand, there have been a few challenges along the way. Operating for more than six months, the 60M3 larger size bio-digester in the Gethsemane Nunnery compound, Sebeta, encountered a technical problem. However, this issue helped to inform the technical team to make design improvements within the digester and the inlet.

“As a modification, we have introduced a strong ring around the dome position where maximum gas production occurs and a scum removal tank to separate straw and hay from the mixed dung,” said Fikre Mesekel Ashine, a technical expert, SNV in Ethiopia. The operation will start within two weeks after the refilling is completed.

Senior delegation visit biodigester pilot

A biogas generator producing green energy

Recommendations

Visiting the four sites, the government officials recommended that the programme should:

  • Intensively promote larger size as well as domestic bio-digesters by capitalising on their multisector benefits. Active engagement of media is considered the main intervention.
  • Engage multiple stakeholders for knowledge transfer, market linkage, demand creation and scale-up, where both ministries have a key stake.
  • Include promotion of bio-slurry in the Ethiopian agricultural extension service package.
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About the NBPE+

NBPE+ is implemented by SNV in Ethiopia and the National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia with funding from the European Union. It promotes the construction of 36,000 domestic as well as piloting of 40 large size bio-digesters.

The project is implemented through the Ministry of Water Irrigation and Energy in nine regions of the country with energy bureaus. SNV is the project manager, providing technical, implementation support, quality assurance and fund management. The larger size biodigesters are implemented by SNV.

Melis Teka

Deputy Team Leader