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Palestinian engineer develops affordable gas generator powered by waste

Palestinian engineer develops affordable gas generator powered by waste
By Robert Hackwill
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The village is at the end of a dirt road not far from Jericho on the West Bank. Desert surrounds it. There is no electricity, it all comes from solar panels. And the village’s gas comes from a recently installed anonymous white box.

It is very satisfying because it gives you the feeling you are helping to make the world a better place

It produces biogas, and while the process is not new and is widely-used around the world already, it has never been done by an ultra-simple and cheap machine like this.

“This bucket contains animal waste. Now all I have to do is add water and mix it very thoroughly. Then the mixture is poured into the machine, and you just have to wait until it makes its way to the bottom,” says one contented user.

From this organic waste the machine makes cooking gas, enough to power a stove for two hours every day. Before the machine arrived villagers had to cook with firewood.

“When we cooked before it made a lot of smoke. It smelt bad and it could be dangerous, because when it rained we had to make the fires indoors. And it took a lot of time. Now we have a flame when we want it, all you need is a little spark.”

The machine was designed in Israel by a Palestinian engineer, Amer Rabaya, who is busy installing it in remote villages all over the West Bank.

“The main idea in fact was to make a sort of stomach into which the waste is injected, a stomach similar to ours, with bacteria inside that eat the waste. This produces the gas that can be used in the home,” he explains.

Making gas from waste products is not revolutionary, but until now machines have been large and difficult to build and supply.This machine comes in a small box in kit form and can be assembled at home.

“We invented a way of bringing Biogas technology into every home. Today we understand that waste products can be a source of energy, and that changes the rules of the game. If the profits to be made from biogas are visible, and waste is no longer considered as such, that changes everything,” says HomeBioGas’ Sales Director Ron Yariv.

At a cost of a little over 500 euros and easy to set up, these biogas generators are already up and running in 100 homes in Israel, homes like Karine et Omer’s, a young Vegan couple very into ecology.

“I’ve got carrots, potatoes, greens and cereals here. I try to use cereals in all my dishes,” says Karine.

As Karine and Omer only eat vegetables every day they produce buckets of vegetable waste, and this is also excellent fuel for biogas. But what interests them above all is the machine’s other product; top quality fertiliser.

“This is where the by-product of gas production comes out, and in fact it is fertiliser that we can use for seeding plants and trees,” says Omer.

On his plot of land opposite his house Omer has a kitchen garden, an on-the-doorstep supply of food, and now fuel for his machine.

“It is a complete cycle, a closed circuit and for me that’s very important. It means a number of jobs no-one wants to do are eliminated. Like for example looking after dustbins and managing rubbish. We don’t need to do that any more. It’s the same story for fertiliser. It is expensive and needs to be brought in. Now it’s available here. It is very satisfying because it gives you the feeling you are helping to make the world a better place,” he smiles.

In its latest project HomeBioGas has installed 40 of the machines in the remote Palestinian village of Al-Awja in the Jordan valley, in a pilot project financed to the tune of 500,000 euros by the European Union, and managed in partnership with the Peres Peace Centre.

This Israeli startup is about to go to the market for funds to make the machine more widely available, and the makers are hoping for a favourable response from consumers.