Biogas Stoves

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Woman cooking with Biogas in Bolivia

Biogas production depends on the availability of sufficient biomass feedstock, water and space for the digester. Biogas is produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic matter under anaerobic conditions. Biogas is comprised primarily of methane and carbon dioxide. At household level, biogas systems can be used to produce fertilizer and for providing energy for cooking and lighting.

This article focusses on biogas cook stoves. For more information on the production of biogas for domestic cooking use please read this article Cooking with Biogas.

Stove Technology

Cookstoves and ovens for biogas application are similar to those of conventional appliances running on commercial gas-fuels. A biogas stove usually has a single or double burner with varying gas consumption rates, which is influenced by the pressure provided by the biogas plant and the diameter of the inlet pipe. The burner itself has several parts. The amount of gas that flows into the burner is controlled by the jet, a hole which is carefully sized and defines the power output of the burner. Compared to other gases, biogas needs less air for combustion. Therefore, conventional gas appliances need larger gas jets when they are used for biogas combustion.[1] Most of these conventional appliances can be adapted for the use with biogas by the modification of the burners to ensure proper combustion and efficient use of energy. Stoves running on biogas contain a valve to premix the biogas with the right amount of oxygen, a burner to combust the mixture and a structure to hold a pot. Piping is needed to transport the biogas from the digester to the point of use in the cook stove.

More information on biogas burners can also be found in this energypedia article: biogas appliances.

Efficiency of Biogas Stoves

For achieving a high efficiency of biogas stoves, the important factors to be considered in designing a biogas stove are:[2]

  • Burner types (orientations of holes, shape and size of holes, burner size)
  • Space between burner and the tripod or other vessel supporting mechanism
  • air control mechanism and optimization on burning

Furthermore, gas composition, gas pressure, flame speed (velocity), and pot to burner distance are of relevance. A test report of SNV mentions also more general criteria for biogas stove efficiency. This Popular Summary of the Test Reports on Biogas Stoves and Lamps presents the test results of biogas stoves of eight countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Lesotho, Nepal, Rwanda and Vietnam) carried out in 2007. Most stoves did not meet the general standards for biogas stoves as defined in China and India. On the basis of thermal efficiency alone, the stoves from Bangladesh and Cambodia met the prescribed minimum efficiency of 55% under both the Chinese and the Indian standards. The stove from Rwanda was very close to the prescribed efficiency.[3]

A Water-Boiling-Test of eight different biogas stoves carried out by the Center for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda resulted in a much lower efficiency. Many of the locally available gas burners that were tested were of poor quality: they had an overall efficiency of 20% on average and their designs did not follow gas burner theory adequately.[1] Furthermore, the test results showed high levels of carbon monoxide emissions for most of the stoves.

However, lab test results can be very different from using stoves under real life conditions. Unfortunately, field operations and respective efficiency analyses (e.g. through kitchen performance tests) are rarely described and available.  

Consumption of Biogas for Cooking

Household burners consume approximately 200-450 liters of biogas per hour. The gas consumption for cooking per person lies between 300 and 900 liter per day, the gas consumption per 5-member family for 2 cooked meals between 1500 and 2400 liter per day. With 1 kg cattle dung in warm tropical countries approximately 40 liters of biogas can be produced.[4]

Advantages and Disadvantages of Biogas Stoves

For the user, cooking on biogas stoves has several advantages but also some disadvantages.


  • Biogas stoves provide instant heat upon ignition, no pre-heating of fuel or waiting time is needed.
  • In most biogas burners the flow-rate can be regulated to turn down the fire-power from high heat to small low heat for simmering.
  • Biogas burns very cleanly
  • Burning biogas releases less greenhouse gases than if the dung was left on the ground to decompose naturally.


  • High investment costs for the digester, gas stove and installations for the gas to get into the kitchen can prevent the uptake of biogas as cooking fuel.[5]
  • Cultural rules might limit the acceptance of handling dung or feces and their use for cooking.
  • Cooking with biogas stoves requires the change of cooking habits, which might prevent the adoption.

Experience with Biogas Stoves

Generally one can state that literature and studies focus much more on biogas plants and the production of biogas than on its use and the real experience of households switching from woodfuel stoves or even a three-stone fire to biogas stoves.

A biogas user survey carried out in 2013 in Vietnam showed that more than 50% of interviewed biogas users stated that the cooking environment has less dust, soot and smoke. 77% were satisfied with the functioning of the biogas stove. However, issues with the ignition switch were often mentioned as a difficulty for lighting up the stove. It was further noted that the cost for repairing the stove counted for 63% maintenance cost of a biogas user. It was also shown that on average, each biogas plant saves daily 4.5 kg of wood and 1.6 kg of agriculture residues from human food and animal feed preparation. Thus, a household with a biodigester saves about 1.2 million VND (around 40-50 Euros) per year in fuel consumption for preparing food and animal feed.[6]

Further Information

  • The Biogas Portal on energypedia provides comprehensive information about technological aspects, framework conditions, social and environmental impacts of biogas as well as general aspects and examples of program implementation from Bolivia, China, Indonesia, Nepal and Tanzania.
  • Biogas for Cooking, article on energypedia
  • Biogas Appliances, article on energypedia
  • An excellent introduction to biogas as a household fuel can be found under HEDON/ Biogas. The page also gives a number of links to helpful documents and homepages.
  • History and future of domestic biogas plants in the developing world by Tom Bond, Michael R. Templeton (2011). In: Energy for Sustainable Development 15 (2011). This article gives a good historic overview of biogas, discusses its advantages and challenges and its future potentials. 
  • The Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) [LF4] is a partnership between Hivos and SNV in supporting national programmes on domestic biogas in five African countries. The Programme aims at constructing 100,000 biogas plants in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burkina Faso providing about half a million people access to a sustainable source of energy by the year 2017.
  • Practical Action – Biogas under the “Further Info” section you will find lots of publications, manuals, policy briefs, and country reports on biogas, mostly focusing on fuel though and not on biogas stoves 
  • SNV - Biogas. SNV has over 25 years of experience in the dissemination of biogas plants. In 2014, SNV reached the milestone of having installed over 600,000 bio digesters worldwide, providing lighting and cleaner cooking facilities for 3 million people.
  • SNV Annual report 2015, page 30


This article was originally published by GIZ HERA. It is basically based on experiences, lessons learned and information gathered by GIZ cook stove projects. You can find more information about the authors and experts of the original “Cooking Energy Compendium” in the Imprint.

  1. 1.0 1.1 Tumwesige V, et al., Biogas appliances in Sub-Sahara Africa, Biomass and Bioenergy (2014),fckLRfckLR
  2. Center for Energy Studies, Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University, Pulchowok, Lalitpur (2004): A Final Report On Efficiency Measurement of Biogas Stoves.
  3. GTZ/ISAT (1999): Biogas Digest Vol II. Biogas - Application and Product Development.
  4. Tom Bond, Michael R. Templeton (2011): History and future of domestic biogas plants in the developing world. In: Energy for Sustainable Development 15 (2011) 347–354.
  5. EPRO Consulting JSC (2014): Biogas User Survey Report. Biogas User Survey 2013 & Voluntary Gold Standard Monitoring.

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