Biogas Technology in India - Orissa

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The promotion of biogas technology declared by the central Indian government as a key programme is also expressly followed by the state government of Orissa. The central coordinating authority is the Orissa Renewable Energy Development Agency (OREDA) which defines the directives for promotion by the state and organises the distribution of funds provided by the central government. Apart from this, OREDA also appears as a dissemination agency. In many districts of the state there are dissemination offices equipped with technical staff who are charged with building biogas plants. An important function of OREDA is the approval of "turnkey operators". These are organisations who build biogas plants commissioned by the government and receive the state subsidies granted to builders by the central government for each newly built or repaired biogas plant. As a result of bad experience with the quality of building and insufficient follow-up service carried out by private biogas entrepreneurs these are exempted from state subsidies in Orissa.

The main objective of the organisation is to promote the development of the non-Hindu peoples in various districts of Orissa. Measures comprise the provision of basic health services, the promotion of self-help organisations on a village level, the combating of illiteracy, support of self-help groups for selling and credits, promotion of women's groups, the establishing, care and utilisation of village community forests. The dissemination of biogas plants constitutes a central point itself and also includes the Hindu population.

Gram Vikas

Gram Vikas, an Indian organisation, has been involved in the dissemination of biogas in Orissa since 1981. Biogas dissemination has established itself as the most comprehensive activity within the organisation in recent years. Gram Vikas in the meantime has become the most significant disseminating organisation in Orissa and, in addition to this, has become one of the largest and most successful biogas organisations in India. Annual output amounts today to nearly 10,000 biogas plants per year. A total of 42,000 plants - this corresponds to about 3% of all Indian biogas plants - were disseminated by Gram Vikas.

The structure of Gram Vikas' organisation for disseminating biogas mirrors the structure of public administration in Orissa. Gram Vikas disseminates biogas plants in 9 of 13 administrative districts i.e. in 170 of a total of 314 blocks. According to the basic principles of their work, these are mainly the areas with a high percentage of indigenous population. The allocation of the regions of the state for dissemination is decided in annual negotiations with another large dissemination agency, the state-owned OREDA. Apart from these two organisations the Block Development Officers (BDOs) in state block administration also carry out biogas measures.

Whilst the upper two levels carry out general administration, acquisition of funds and material and the supervision, the actual construction work is mostly organised by theBlock Dissemination Offices. The Sub-division Coordinators assist in and supervise the work of the Block Dissemination Offices by purchasing and allocating building materials and accessories and visiting individual customers after conclusion of the work. They also document the work within the Blocks and compile this for Programme Coordinators on a district level.


The masons are not taken on as employees as building work almost comes to a complete standstill during the monsoons. Biogas plants are mainly built between the months of March and June for this reason, i.e. prior to the monsoons when the groundwater level is at its lowest, when locally made bricks are available and when very little work can be done in agriculture.The masons are paid on a daily basis; in 1992 a biogas mason eared around Rs 40 (= DM 2.66) per day and was thus paid in line with masons in other fields.

Salaried employees on a block and district level are instructed to use the out-of-season time to carry out follow-up service of the plants. This involves not only visiting and inspecting biogas plants built by the organisation but also those which are more than 2 years old and whose guarantee has run out. Visits to newer plants are also used to make the users familiar with the operation of the plant.

Guarantee Period

Within the guarantee period of two years repair becomes necessary for about 5% of the plants. Since the government provides no funds to subsidise repair work within the guarantee period, the costs directly affect the overheads of the organisation. The risk of having to rebuild only a single biogas plant with a total value of RS 5,000 means using the state subsidy of Rs 400 per plant for approx. 13 new plants. Quality assurance is thus a particularly important aspect of dissemination management.


Farmers' wives are ascribed a key role in the acceptance and efficient utilisation of biogas plants. For this reason there are mobile teams consisting of three women in each in various districts whose specific task it is to motivate farmers' wives to use the biogas plants accurately and to train these in the operation of the plants and in the use of the gas.

Utilisation of Slurry

The utilisation of slurry has not been an express element of training in the past. It is tradition to collect the dung in the South of Orissa, dry it in the sun and then to spread it on the fields shortly prior to the vegetation period when preparing the land. Composting dung is unfamiliar to many biogas farmers, and in most cases, the slurry out of the biogas plant is dried. When farmers have a kitchen garden or irrigation systems the slurry is used in a liquid form.

Types of Plant

The majority (87%) are fixed-dome plants of the Deenbandhu type with a digester volume of around 6 to 9 m3. However, there is a tendency towards an increase in the proportion of smaller 6 m3 plants; in 1990 to 1991 these alone made up 84% of all newly built plants. As interpreted by Gram Vikas this reflects more specific aiming at poorer target groups and the increasing technical perfection and professionalism in plant construction. As the plants rarely still have problems with gas leakage in the masoned dome, smaller plants are now sufficient to meet the energy demand of a family. Investment costs for a turnkey plant of this size amount to Rs 5,800 (= DM 386) of which the material costs make up the greater part.

Dissemination Costs

The high overall costs in dissemination can be justified if they are compared with the costs of alternative energies. In its annual report for 1990-91, Gram Vikas compares the performance and the costs of the 39,000 biogas plants built between 1982 and 1991 with the investments necessary to generate the same amount of thermal energy. The calculation is as follows: assuming that 80% of the plants are operated with 60% of the performance theoretically possible, daily gas production amounts to 47,586 m3. This corresponds to the thermal generation of 4,079.9 million kWh. With the same service life of the plants, assumed to be 25 years, and a price of Rs 1.50 for the generation and distribution of one kWh of electric energy, the investment costs for the generation of electricity amount to 31 times as much (6,119.9 million RS) as the investment costs essential for biogas plants (195.3 million Rs). If the thermal energy required for power generation is used, biogas plants would only be 3.8 times cheaper. The high appreciation of biogas technology is reflected materially in the guidelines and subsidies available to farmers and project executing organisations. It is similarly reflected in how banks integrate biogas into the promotion of credits.

Further Information


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