Floating Drum Biogas Plants

From energypedia


There are different types of small scale biogas digesters. Some of the biogas digesters are summarized below:

The table below gives a first comparision of the different types.


Fixed dome

Floating drum

Tubular design

Plastic containers

Gas storage

Internal Gas storage up to 20 m³ (large)

Internal Gas storage drum size (small)

Internal eventually external plastic bags

Internal Gas storage drum sizes (small)

Gas pressure

Between 60 and 120 mbar

Upto 20 mbar

Low, around 2 mbar

Low around 2mbar

Skills of contractor

High; masonry, plumbing

High; masonry, plumbing, welding

Medium; plumbing

Low; plumbing

Availability of Material






Very high >20 years

High; drum is weakness

Medium; Depending on chosen liner




Self agitated by Biogas pressure

Manual steering

Not possible; plug flow type

Evtl Manual steering


6 to 124 m³ digester vol

Up to 20 m³

Combination possible

Up to 6 m³ digester vol

Methane emission





Floating Drum Biogas Plants

Floating drum plant in Mauretania

Om 1956, Jashu Bhai J Patel from India designed the first floating drum biogas plant, popularly called Gobar gas plant. Floating-drum plants consist of an underground digester (cylindrical or dome-shaped) and a moving gas-holder. The gas-holder floats either directly on the fermentation slurry or in a water jacket of its own. The gas is collected in the gas drum, which rises or moves down, according to the amount of gas stored. The gas drum is prevented from tilting by a guiding frame. When biogas is produced, the drum moves up adn when it is consumed, the drum goes down.

If the drum floats in a water jacket, it cannot get stuck, even in substrate with high solid content. After the introduction of cheap Fixed-dome Chinese model, the floating drum plants became obsolete as they have high investment and maintenance cost along with other design weakness

►Go to Top


Water-jacket plant with external guide frame: 1 Mixing pit, 11 Fill pipe, 2 Digester, 3 Gasholder, 31 Guide frame, 4 Slurry store, 5 Gas pipe

In the past, floating-drum plants were mainly built in India. They are chiefly used for digesting animal and human feces on a continuous-feed mode of operation, i.e. with daily input. They are used most frequently by small to middle-sized farms (digester size: 5-15m3) or in institutions and larger agro-industrial estates (digester size: 20-100m3).

Disadvantages: The steel drum is relatively expensive and maintenance-intensive. Removing rust and painting has to be carried out regularly. The life-time of the drum is short (up to 15 years; in tropical coastal regions about five years). If fibrous substrates are used, the gas-holder shows a tendency to get "stuck" in the resultant floating scum.

►Go to Top

Water-jacket Floating-drum Plants

Water-jacket plants are universally applicable and easy to maintain. The drum cannot get stuck in a scum layer, even if the substrate has a high solids content. Water-jacket plants are characterized by a long useful life and a more aesthetic appearance (no dirty gas-holder). Due to their superior sealing of the substrate (hygiene!), they are recommended for use in the fermentation of night soil. The extra cost of the masonry water jacket is relatively modest.

►Go to Top

Material of Digester and Drum

The digester is usually made of brick, concrete or quarry-stone masonry with plaster. The gas drum normally consists of 2.5 mm steel sheets for the sides and 2 mm sheets for the top. It has welded-in braces which break up surface scum when the drum rotates. The drum must be protected against corrosion. Suitable coating products are oil paints, synthetic paints and bitumen paints. Correct priming is important. There must be at least two preliminary coats and one topcoat. Coatings of used oil are cheap. They must be renewed monthly. Plastic sheeting stuck to bitumen sealant has not given good results. In coastal regions, repainting is necessary at least once a year, and in dry uplands at least every other year. Gas production will be higher if the drum is painted black or red rather than blue or white, because the digester temperature is increased by solar radiation. Gas drums made of 2 cm wire-mesh-reinforced concrete or fiber-cement must receive a gas-tight internal coating. The gas drum should have a slightly sloping roof, otherwise rainwater will be trapped on it, leading to rust damage. An excessively steep-pitched roof is unnecessarily expensive and the gas in the tip cannot be used because when the drum is resting on the bottom, the gas is no longer under pressure. Floating-drums made of glass-fiber reinforced plastic and high-density polyethylene have been used successfully, but the construction costs are higher compared to using steel. Floating-drums made of wire-mesh-reinforced concrete are liable to hairline cracking and are intrinsically porous. They require a gas-tight, elastic internal coating. PVC drums are unsuitable because they are not resistant to UV.

►Go to Top

Guide Frame

The side wall of the gas drum should be just as high as the wall above the support ledge. The floating-drum must not touch the outer walls. It must not tilt, otherwise the coating will be damaged or it will get stuck. For this reason, a floating-drum always requires a guide. This guide frame must be designed in a way that allows the gas drum to be removed for repair. The drum can only be removed if air can flow into it, either by opening the gas outlet or by emptying the water jacket. The floating gas drum can be replaced by a balloon above the digester. This reduces construction costs but in practice problems always arise with the attachment of the balloon to the digester and with the high susceptibility to physical damage.

►Go to Top

Types of Floating-drum Plants

There are different types of floating-drum plants:

  • KVIC model with a cylindrical digester, the oldest and most widespread floating drum biogas plant from India.
  • Pragati model with a hemisphere digester
  • Ganesh model made of angular steel and plastic foil
  • floating-drum plant made of pre-fabricated reinforced concrete compound units
  • floating-drum plant made of fibre-glass reinforced polyester
  • low cost floating-drum plants made of plastic water containers or fiberglass drums: ARTI Biogas plants
  • BORDA model: The BORDA-plant combines the static advantages of hemispherical digester with the process-stability of the floating-drum and the longer life span of a water jacket plant.

►Go to Top

Further Information


This article is a continuation of the article, Types of Biogas Digesters and Plants. For questions regarding the article, please contact the authors of the article, Types of Biogas Digesters and Plants.