Biogas Energy

Biogas Energy in Kenya

  • Biogas is produced by the anaerobic fermentation of biomass such as dung, municipal wastes and crop residues or any biodegradable material. Biogas digesters plants can be reliable and simple to maintain though care has to be taken to avoid leakages of methane and water ingression explosion risk. The methane can be applied to generate heat, and electricity making rural electricity systems self-reliant. Bioslurry which is a bi-product of biogas systems is good as organic manure for crop production and agricultural use.
  • The National Energy Policy, 2004 recognizes the role of biogas for domestic and industrial sector and explicitly make provision for its promotion and among other renewable energy sources.
  • Since the 1980s, biogas technology have been actively promoted though the uptake was noted to be quite low. In 2007, the Biogas for Better Life initiative feasibility report, indicated that only 2000 units were installed then against a project potential of 65,000 units.
  • Efforts by government – Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, development partners, NGOs, Private sector have seen a substantial increased investments in terms of number of   units installed, continued research and development, increased capacity building opportunities and innovative financing approaches.
  • With close to 75% of Kenya’s population living in rural areas and depending directly on agricultural activity, 30% of whom own at least one cow (zero or open grazed), the potential for biogas uptake cannot be overstated.  Domestic biogas provides a range of benefits to smallholder agricultural households practicing mixed farming. It can play a crucial role in reducing the GHGs, especially carbon dioxide, by reducing traditional unsustainable fuel wood consumption practices providing a clean energy. It can empower local people, especially women farmers and contributes to food security and sustainable management of forest


  • The analysis of the market potential for domestic biogas in rural Kenya was carried out in September – November 2009, commissioned by GIZ( by then GTZ). Most domestic biogas digesters in Kenya are either floating drum or fixed dome designs. The floating drum design was first introduced in 1980s and the fixed dome in the 1990s.   Since the 1980s, more than 1000 household size biogas digesters, mainly fed with cattle dung, were constructed to provide gas for cooking and lighting to rural families.  It is estimated that about 30-50% of them are meanwhile out of order (MoE, 2008). To date biogas technology adoption still remains low due to inadequate policy framework.

The expansion of domestic and institutional bio digesters for cooking is notable- with over 20,000 units installed. Progress is also noted in  projects for electricity generation with an estimated installed capacity of  3MW contributed by close to  10 units  the smallest being 20kW and largest 2.2MW. Some plants are for own use, while other intend to sell to the grid. The Feed- in –Tarrif is currently offering US cents 0.1 for projects below 10MW. However, the lengthy process cannot be ignored. It is anticipated that as the sector expands there will be ease of doing biogas business.

Research & Development

KIRDI has set up a laboratory for gas analysis and feedstock grading but still in very nascent stage. JKUAT has also undertaken research in recent years on hyacinth utilization and biogas bottling under the BRIGHT project supported by JICA. A few research areas at JKUAT include a project with European Community on aquaculture involving conversion of waste water to energy, which is then purified and circulated in fish ponds. Others include biogas production, purification and packaging systems in collaboration with KIPI with a view to bringing it to commercialization.

Can Payment for Environmental Services (PES), acceleration biogas uptakes?Hivos and IIED conducted a study under the Kenya National Domestic Biogas Programme (KENDBIP) to understand how payments for ecosystem services (PES) might benefit smallholder agriculture. Biodigesters have three climate-friendly impacts: they avoid deforestation, since less fuelwood or charcoal is needed in switching to biogas; they avoid the use of chemical fertilisers, since bioslurry is an effective fertiliser; and bioslurry improves crop productivity. Biogas also has a positive impact on health, especially for women, as a smokeless cooking fuel. Each biodigester qualifies for small amounts of carbon offsets as payments for ecosystem services, since the use of biogas avoids deforestation, protecting the ecosystem services provided by forests (such as reducing atmospheric carbon). These carbon offsets translate into small revenue streams from international sales in carbon markets.

Bio-digester models

Floating drum and fixed dome can be regarded as the oldest models being promoted in the Kenyan market. With time different technologies are hitting the market with demand based on raw materials, land/space availability.  For instance in 2010 Carbon Africa tested the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)- India model for 3 pilot plants.  Other models included Kenya Bio Digester Model (KENBIM), CAMARTEC and AKUT models. Today, models from companies like Flexi gas, Ken-tainers, Sim Gas etc.

Best Practice & Market Development

The biggest challenge to biogas adoption is the high cost of digester installation whether fiber, masonry, plastic or still drums. Domestication and cost reduction is key to market development. KBP is now promoting the MKD design which has reduced the cost of domestic systems by almost 30%. The interlocking block system for dome construction has also helped to bring down the cost of construction materials significantly.  Continued local content development of biogas systems, like the Blue Flame model manufactured by Kentainers Ltd, will most likely continue to bring installation costs down. Other newer designs (with plug and play features) promoted by the likes of Simgas and Rehau are also making rapid inroads into the market.

Domestication and cost reduction.

  • Promoting MKD design
  • Interlocking block system
  • Local content development eg blue flame model
  • Newer designs- Simgas, Rehau

The following challenges remain bottlenecks to speedy market penetration and technology adoption as identified by a survey carried out by MoEP in 2007

  • Unsustainable use of biomass with attendant negative impacts on the environment.
  • Widening gap between supply and demand for wood-fuel.
  • A disorganized private sector enterprise engagement
  • Emissions from wood fuel leading to health hazards among users.
  • Weak enforcement of the legal and regulatory framework for sustainable production, distribution and marketing of biomass.
  • Insufficient promotion of sustainable afforestation programmes.
  • Inadequate data on biomass production and consumption.

Case study

Schutter Energy Ltd. was registered in August 2012 to deliver Takamoto Biogas, working under the Takamoto Biogas brand.To date the company has installed biogas systems in 265 families, saving firewood equivalent of 3180 trees, with 1192MT CO2 equivalent CO2 emissions avoided. Success of Taka moto digesters can be attributed to marketing innovation and technology simplification. Taka moto uses the Pay-As-You-Go mobile system using a model developed by GSM Mobile Enabled Community Services Programme. The digester is constructed for free and costs recovered from payments made by users through Mpesa to enable gas production based on purchase value. Taka Moto also provides direct loans to farmers through SACCOs and other women groups to install a system which is repayable within one year at only Ksh 5,500 per month. .Taka moto success thrives on robust technology, flexible payment system, well-oiled after sales service and aggressive marketing. As a Biogas Construction Enterprise (BCE) the sector has a lot to learn from its business model.

Capacity Building & Training

NITA recently developed and published Assessment Guidelines for Skills Upgrading in Biogas Technology. The Guidelines cover competence and knowledge requirements in materials assessment, design, installation, equipment and machines, bioslurry value addition, and commissioning and testing. This manual is created to be used in technical colleges and polytechnics. The intention is to train artisans and technicians following the Tier system from T1 (for standard 8 and Form leavers) to T3 for diploma and Degree holders. Unlike solar, biogas is yet to develop graded curriculum system for Schools, Colleges and Training institutions. JKUAT is considering starting courses in Biogas technology and has developed a Training Manual and Booklet.

Under a 5 year programme, UNIDO through GEF intends to assist KIRDI to develop capacity for trained commercial biogas designers, operators and installers. Targeting agri-based institutions the programme will undertake piloting, training of staff, set up of knowledge center, biogas laboratory, trainings in feasibility studies, design, construction and maintenance.



Table gives some of the of domestic biogas plants in country installed by MOEP and partners.

No. Name of Institution Cumulative Biogas Digesters Remarks
1 MoEP and GTZ’s Special Energy Programme 400 Project initiated between 1987-1992 which marked the first rigorous intervention to promote biogas by MoEP and GIZ
2 Kenya National Domestic Biogas Programme/Kenya Biogas Programme (KENDBIP) 18,000 – spread in 36 counties Funded by Dutch government, HIVOS acts as the fund manager while SN is the technical partner. MoEP chairs the National Steering Biogas Committee that coordinates the programme. Phase I, (2009-2013) with Ksh 25,000 subsidy achieved 12,000 against a target of 8,000. Phase II, (2014-2018) without subsidy, has a target of 26,500 biogas plants.
3 MoEP –Energy Centres’ initiated domestic biogas digesters 1,000 An annual average of 50, mainly floating drum types, in addition to on-station demonstration.
4 MoEP- large institutional biogas digesters using cow dung and sewage 6 JKUAT: Production of biogas from human waste for cooking and electricity generation- 385 m3 digester and 45 kW generator on 20:80 diesel: biogas.
Kaimosi Teachers: Vihiga County – Production of biogas for cooking from human waste – 200m3 digester.
UoN (College of Agriculture, Kabete): Production of cooking gas from cow dung – 120 m3.
Mang’u High School,
Isinya Girls,
Siana boarding Primary School
5 MoEP and Flower farms -Feasibility study on biogas production from flower waste 2 Biogas used to generate electricity at –P.J. Dave Flowers Ltd -Isinya -Kajiado County – production of biogas and electricity from flower waste and cow dung –400m3 digester, 100 kW capacity. Generator 100% biogas

Thika-Eureka Holdings-(Simbi roses farm at Gatanga) – production of biogas and electricity from flower waste –200 m3 digester, 55 kW capacity. Generator 100% biogas

6 MoEP and Kenya Prison Service collaboration in biogas programme 14 MoEP have installed 14 biogas plants of 124m3.

Technical recommendations have been offered in 18 other correctional facilities so as to up scale the biogas programme.

7 Tunnel Engineering Company Ltd, Fort Tenan, Kericho 160

(130 small and 30 large digesters)

Constructed first digester in 1957 mainly for organic fertilizer. Promoted biogas technology up to 1986.
8 Sustainable Energy Strategies 750 A Carbon credit registered project within the Nairobi River Basin.
9 Takamoto Ltd. 100 – Kiambu County Promoting portable digesters in Githunguri, Kiambu County
10 Taita Biogas Ltd. 400 Based in Taita Taveta County installing domestic digesters, but installed a 36 m3 digester at St. Mary’s High School, saving 50% of firewood.
11 Afrisol 140 – (120 domestic and 20 institutional) Constructed a 372m3 digester near Chaka, Nyeri County, with a power capacity of 60kW, for own use.
12 Gorge Farm – Biojoule 1 Utilizes agro wastes to produce 2.2 MW (2 MW to the grid, 0.2kW farm operations). Due for connection to the national grid.
13 Olivado Company Ltd. 1 340kW system utilizing avocado waste after oil extraction in Sagana.
14 Pine power ltd. 1 150kW digester at Kilifi using sisal waste and cow dung
15 James Finlay Ltd. 1 160kW power generated from flower and tea wastes
16 Slaughter house waste 2 30kW at Nyongara Dagoretti measuring 50m3.
248m3 Keekonyoike in Kiserian now planning to package the biogas. The process produces biogas, which is piped to a 200m3 biogas storage facility, as well as slurry which can be used as organic fertiliser. The plant currently produces 600m3 of biogas per day which runs a 20KW generator for local electricity consumption. The abattoir generates about 20 metric tonnes of waste.

Calculated benefits on a proposed 350 Units MOEP initiative

Firewood saving: According to a study conducted in Kiambu County (Muriuiki S.W., 2014) an average homestead saved 1,519.2 Kg of fire wood and 1, 147.2 kg of charcoal annually upon embracing biogas technology. Considering charcoal recovery rate of 1kg to 10 kg of firewood (Muller et al, 2011), 1,147.2 kg of charcoal requires 11, 472kg of firewood. Therefore, the total firewood saved in one household per annum is 12,991.2 kg (approximately 13 metric tons) due to biogas installation. The 350 households will save a total of 4,550 metric tons of firewood upon embracing biogas technology.
Monetary value of saved firewood: The amount of firewood that would have been used without biogas, according to the analysis in (i) above is equivalent to 13 metric tons. On average, one metric ton of firewood sells at Ksh 2,000, thus making a total annual saving of Ksh 26,000 per household. This translates to Ksh 9.1 million at the end of the initial promotion phase, with 350 digesters installed.
Emission avoidance: Firewood has emission coefficients of 1,536g/kg (Bailis, 2003 and Smith et al., 2000), thus a household using biogas will result to annual emission reduction of 19.96 tonsCO2 equivalent (from 12,991.2 kg of firewood computed in [i] above). The country, therefore, will reduce emission in the tune of 6,986 tonsCO2 equivalent by the end of the year.
Employment generated: Construction of a digester involves 20 man-days of both skilled and semi-skilled labour. Therefore, 350 digesters would result to 7,000 days of both categories of workers earning Ksh 70,000 and Ksh 35,000 respectively. In addition, excavation work would cost Ksh 5,000 per digester translating to a total income of Ksh1, 750,000 to the youth in the target areas. The biogas cookstoves makers would also rake in Ksh 5,500 per double burner biogas stove, thus making a combined income of Ksh 1, 925,000.
Organic fertilizer: A 10m3 digester has a daily bio-slurry outflow of 160 liters, which provides a rich source of macro nutrients compared to commercial inorganic fertilizer and fresh manure, as shown below;

Commercial NPK 15 3.45 5.1
Fresh cow manure 17 2.18 3.8
Digested effluent 78 5.65 10.8
The study conducted in Kiambu indicated that use of bio-slurry increased maize yields by 57%. If one acre of maize produced 1,350 kg (15-90 kg bags) on commercial fertilizer, the same piece of land will produce 2,119.5, kg, an increase of 769.5 kg equivalent to Ksh. 25,650 at the buying price of Ksh 3,000 per 90kg bag.

Regulatory Framework

Kenya has developed a number of policies and regulations to support the sustainable development and growth of biogas energy. These include:

  • The Kenya Biogas Standards, KEBS 2015 (5 sets of standards namely Floating Drum, General, Fixed Dome, Lamps and Stoves). These are standards for domestic systems only.
  • Assessment Guidelines for Biogas Skills Upgrading (NITA)
  • The Draft Energy Bill and Policy (2016)
  • Finance Bill of 2015 allows for VAT exemption for plastic bag biogas digesters and leasing of biogas producing equipment.

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