A boy walks down the middle of a busy street in a small country town in Ethiopia, carrying an enormous backpack. He doesn’t fold under its weight because this special backpack is filled with biogas. The pack is part of a project by German start-up (B)energy, which helps people create small businesses making and selling methane gas. In regions where traditional cooking fuel, such as wood and charcoal, is expensive and rare, the biogas serves as a cheap and clean-burning alternative.
By providing the technology to create and transport biogas to entrepreneurs, (B)energy hopes to create a sustainable business opportunity to people in rural areas. To create the methane, users collect dung and other organic waste which is placed into a semi-portable digester, the (B)plant.
The digester is covered by a tent-like greenhouse that increases the heat inside the digester helping to speed up the fermentation cycle. The waste flows through the system creating methane gas, which gathers in the upper section of the digester as it ferments. When an empty gas-carrying backpack is connected to the system, the gas flows directly into it, inflating the bag.
When full, the backpacks weigh around nine pounds, so the gas can easily be transported to a buyer’s home or a central location to be sold. A full bag, which can be connected to a stove in the user’s home, provides about four hours of cooking time. So far, the nascent business has two franchisees, one in Ethiopia and one in Sudan. These early collaborators are both women who have managed to start their own small businesses creating and selling the gas.
Images via (B)energy