In the mid-fifties, first attempts were made to use biogas technology to gain energy from coffee pulp in Kenya. In the following 25 years, more than 100 plants of varying types were sold mainly to large-scale farmers by a private entrepreneur. After the energy crisis, interest in this technology boomed. A number of Indian floating-drum plants and Chinese fixed-dome plants were installed particularly for public institutes, like schools and other education centres by private organisations often with foreign sponsors. However, not only did the technical quality leave much to be desired, but also the social and economic conditions were not taken into consideration during implementation of the plants. Therefore, the plants themselves soon were no longer filled and/or were out of operation due to technical problems.
In the context of the Special Energy Programme (SEP) Kenya in 1983/4 several craftsmen were trained in the construction of biogas plants by GIZ short-term experts. They went on to build around 40 biogas plants in the Mount Meru region. However, it was soon evident that training craftsmen in the construction of plants alone was not sufficient to guarantee permanent function of the plants or the extension of dissemination into other regions. Lacking quality assurance, no advice for the customer on how to operate the biogas plant and no dissemination strategy were the main short-comings. To alleviate this, a long-term expert was employed to provide advice in Kenya in 1985. Around 250 floating-drum plants were installed in various regions by the SEP in cooperation with the Ministry for Energy by 1988.
Plastic tube digesters (PTD) were introduced in Kenya in the early 1990s. Their low price made them an attractive alternative to the masonry biogas digesters. After initial difficulties, the technology seems to be on the way to maturity by the end of the 2010s.
The budget of the Biogas Section for 1992 amounted to approx. K£ 25,000. This corresponds to about US$ 2,500 per year for training, infrastructure and public relations work and about K£ 200,000 (approx. US$ 15,500) for the wages of 10 members of staff who are not only involved in biogas work. Approx. KSh. 50,000 (US$ 1,500) for training, infrastructure, monitoring and public relations work were made available for 1992 from SEP funds. These funds stopped in 1993.
Function of the Plants
Of the 49 biogas plant owners, around 1/4 (13) stated that plants had functioned without any problem since they had been built. Eight of these plants are no older than 2 years, the oldest has been operating for seven years. Nine plants built between 1984 and 1988 are no longer in operation.
The reasons for this are stated as being:
- Is no longer filled: 5
- Inferior gas production: 1
- Gas leaks and pipes defect: 2
- Inlet pipe broken: 1