Energy, Capital & Power spoke with Malick Gaye, National Biogas Program Coordinator and Technical Advisor at Senegal’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energies, about the country’s National Biogas Program.
The Ministry-initiated initiative seeks to supply homes with clean cooking energy, reduce CO2 emissions, conserve forests and promote women and children’s health. Guaye addressed the program’s development, present initiatives, accomplishments and intentions for the future.
What is the current state of play of biogas in Senegal? Can you provide an overview of the National Biogas Program?
The National Biogas Program in Senegal aims to provide homes with clean cooking energy as an alternative to wood and charcoal. One of the primary goals is to reduce CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the initiative aims to reduce the impact on forests while also improving the health of mothers and children. Cooking is predominantly the responsibility of women in Senegalese culture, and the use of wood and smoke in traditional cooking methods has a harmful impact on their health. Many mothers often carry their children on their backs while cooking, exposing them to even more hazardous situations. We want to solve these issues by providing an alternative with biogas. Since 2009, the initiative has focused on pilot phases to promote technology and train people to implement the projects.
How many biogas systems have been installed so far in Senegal?
Senegal now has over 3,000 biodigester units in operation. The fixed dome concept, which incorporates a subsurface biodigester built by civil engineering, is the most widely utilized technique. The Chinese biogas production model is widely employed. Although there are other possible substrates, cow dung is the principal raw material utilized to make biogas. Cow dung is easily accessible since many of the homes we target are agropastoral households. We manufacture digestate, an organic amendment that acts as a vital fertilizer for crops, as well as biogas by utilizing cow dung.
How has the financing aspect of the program been addressed?
Initially, the program used a subsidy scheme in which the state funded 80% of the cost of the biodigester and the family donated the remaining 20%. This method, however, proved unsustainable since individuals prefer to disregard items in which they have not invested heavily. As a result, we’ve taken a new approach that concentrates on the commercial features of biogas products such as organic amendments, wastewater and CO2. Large agricultural corporations buy digestate to fertilize their fields, and the Ministry of Agriculture buys digestate to distribute during certain agricultural campaigns. We have also made deals with nations such as Switzerland to sell CO2 emission rights to them. These funding streams help to ensure the program’s long-term viability.
Which other countries have shown interest in the biogas program?
Senegal and Burkina Faso are the most advanced West African countries in terms of developing biogas initiatives. Other nations are establishing programs, including Mali, Guinea-Conakry, Niger, Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo. A biogas association has been created among these nations and approved by their respective governments to encourage teamwork and knowledge sharing. The association is governed by a Council of Ministers and a Board of Directors, with major stakeholders participating. Senegal’s initiative has acted as an example for other nations in the subregion.
Are there plans to introduce new technologies in the biogas sector?
In the market, new technologies such as prefabricated items are emerging. Geomembrane technology, notably geomembrane-made tarpaulins, is gaining prominence. These tarpaulins are stronger and can last for up to 25 years. We are now working on a project to install 1,600 biodigesters utilizing geomembrane technology. This project will act as a test bed to determine the viability and scalability of this novel technique.
What are the future plans and goals of the National Biogas Program in Senegal?
Our ultimate objective is to reach every family that may benefit from biogas as a source of clean cooking energy. We wish to broaden the scope of the initiative and install more biodigesters. Furthermore, we intend to increase biogas production efficiency and investigate prospects for biogas application in other areas such as energy generation and transportation. Collaboration with neighboring nations will remain a priority in order to exchange experiences and best practices and collaboratively solve regional concerns.