Designing a Sustainable Biogas Plant

Maya Foundation & Team Casa


Linde Soontiëns, João Melo, Jelle Bunt, Leonard Leiner


The task given to us by the Maya Foundation was to design a biogas plant that is more sustainable than the one they are currently using in Serachour, Nepal. The latter is built using a substantial amount of cement which is a resource that emits a lot of CO2 so one of the goals was to find an alternative material which would be more environmentally friendly. The other goal was to reduce the amount of biogas leaking out of the tank due to high pressures.



The outcome of our project is a prototype biogas plant accompanied with various documents destined for the Maya Foundation and the villagers of Serachour which address all the main points around our biogas plant design. First a manual has been made which describes in detail  all steps that have to be taken to build the plant and provides a list of components which can easily be obtained in Nepal. In addition to that, a testing plan has been written to guide the villagers and the people from the foundation in the testing of their biogas plants for gas and water leakage. The maintenance & safety manual, destined to the Maya Foundation, and a presentation summarizing it, for the villagers, have been made to inform them on how to maintain & repair the plant and about possible risks and how to avoid them. We were tasked by the Maya Foundation to design a more environmentally friendly biogas plant so in addition to the testing plan which should help reduce drastically the emission of methane through leakage, an eco-audit has been made to compare our design, mainly consisting of the HDPE plastic, to the one being used in Serachour at the moment. We found that the CO2 footprint of our design was much lower than theirs.



The main goal in quartile 1 was the context dossier. This document helped us to get an overview of all the factors around designing, building and implementing a biogas plant in Serachour, Nepal to obtain a list of key properties for it. We looked into the geography of the area, the available infrastructures, socio-economic factors, et cetera. Looking into different biogas technologies we decided to focus our efforts in designing a pre-built biogas which would be easy to build using a small amount of components in contrast to the fixed-dome one they have been using in Serachour.



The main goal in this quartile was to build a prototype based on the findings obtained from the context dossier. First we looked into the differences between a pre-built biogas plant made mostly from plastics and a fixed-dome one made from concrete and we found that the prebuilt plant would be easier and cheaper to install and would have a longer lifespan than the plant currently being used. Different designs were discussed to find the one that would fit to the requirements obtained from quartile 1. The final design we came up with allowed for easy installation, maintenance and repairing. All the steps we took and their explanations were put together in the Decisions Matter Book.


In the last quartile we tested our prototype built in Q2 for leaks and made some improvements to make sure that little to no biogas would leave the tank as the emissions are substantial and we aim for an environmentally friendly design. We also put our efforts into making sure that our prototype could be built, maintained and repaired by the villagers of Serachour. To make this possible different documents where written, such as a presentation that the Maya Foundation could give to the villagers to teach them about risks and common failures of the biogas plant, and how to fix them. In addition to that, a manual on how to build our biogas plant which we worked on during the learning line and a maintenance & safety Manual were made.