Khadi and Village Industries Commission: Biogas technology is particularly evident in the south of Maharashtra due to the high level of agricultural development. In no other Indian state are there so many biogas plants as here. In 1992 they numbered around 345,000. A significant contribution to this development was made by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) whose headquarters are in Bombay. Considerable development work was also carried out by J.J. Patel with the famous Indian floating-drum plant ("Gram Laxmi", better known under the "KVIC Design").
Central coordination of the biogas dissemination in Maharashtra is with the Department of Rural Development in Bombay. Subsidies provided by the central Indian government are handled through the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDA). The DRDA have the power to decide in their district. A large number of non-governmental organisations and private constructors build and disseminate biogas plants as "turnkey operators".
Shivsadan Griha Nirman Sahakari Society Ltd, called Shivsadan (Maharati: "house of Shiva") for short, is a commercially run factory for the production of pre-fabricated concrete compound units. The company which was established in 1969 has been building biogas plants since 1976. The initiative for the programme came from the Sangli sugar mill to which Shivsadan has good contacts. At a joint conference of KVIC and representatives of the sugar industry in Bombay in 1975, the sugar industry was called upon to propagate and disseminate biogas plants in its operation areas. Shivsadan states the maximum building capacity to be 4,000 plants per year.
To carry out research and development work, the Shivsadan Research Foundation, Sangli was established in 1989 and the Shivsadan Research Institute, Sangli (SRERI) connected to this also founded. In addition to applied (commissioned) research in agriculture, technical environmental protection and renewable sources of energy, it is also their task to discover new fields of application for ferrocement and concrete compound units.
The original target group consisted of cooperative farmers in the sugar industry. 350 plants were built for these in the mid-seventies during a three-year demonstration phase. Since then, the extensive demand for biogas plants has made biogas dissemination the most important branch of production for Shivsadan. In many villages where a large proportion of cooperative farmers live, biogas plants are almost exclusively Shivsadan plants. According to the company, 15% of all plants in the districts attended to are being built within their dissemination programme. A larger proportion, an estimated 85% of all biogas plants, are masoned Deenbandhu plants.
Types of Plant
Shivsadan offers two types of biogas plant. Besides the classic floating-drum plant with a gasholder made of steel sheeting, a newly developed fixed-dome plant, called the "Krishna Model", is offered in sizes of 6, 9, 12 and 18 m3 digester volume. It is marked by a low price and is free from corrosion as all the components are made of concrete.
Components for both types of plant are produced in the Sangli factory, loaded onto lorries and installed at the customer's farm within one day. The lorries are equipped with a crane so that all the work necessary can be carried out by the installation team without them having to obtain any extra machines or aids. Normally the biogas plants are ordered with a connected toilet.
The latest product by Shivsadan is a repair set for defective floating-drum plants. Using this, old masoned plants whose gas dome has been removed, can be converted into fixed-dome plants. After the installation of a pre-fabricated concrete part, the plants perform according to the principle of a fixed-dome plant.
Shivsadan is the only larger organisation which builds biogas plants in the districts it attends to. A great number of small construction companies and individual masons build and disseminate masoned fixed-dome plants of the Deenbandhu type. These plants are normally cheaper than the pre-fabricated models from Shivsadan, which means the masoned plants are more interesting for less financially sound farmers.
The type of household plants in demand, also with Shivsadan, shows a strong tendency towards smaller fixed-dome models. Although a completely different type of plant is disseminated here, Maharashtra also shows that fixed-dome plants (reliable performance) correspond most to the requirements of the target group of smallholders and medium-scale farmers.
The advantages and disadvantages of locally masoned Deenbandhu and pre-fabricated Krishna plants can be stated as follows:
- Deenbandhu plant: low capital investment, high flexibility in building and installation, building material is available locally but extensive quality assurance measures necessary by well trained craftsmen.
- Krishna plant: easy to examine and thus a good standard of quality but high capital investment and increasing transport costs for greater distances. Additionally, large numbers are essential for economical production.
Prices for a Biogas Plant
If the price for a Krishna biogas plant with a digester volume of 6 m3 is compared to the cost of a masoned Deenbandhu fixed-dome plant of the same size, as disseminated in Orissa by Gram Vikas, it can be seen that the total costs of the Krishna plants exceed those of the masoned fixed-dome plant by about Rs 1,000 (approx. DM 66). The difference in pure material costs is negligible; the labour costs for the pre-fabricated plant are lower by about half. In each case the costs for the transport of the pre-fabricated plant which increase with the distance between the factory and building site, must be added (for the comparison shown a minimum distance from the factory was assumed).