Biogas is a by-product of a process called Anaerobic Digestion. In this system, biodegradable refuse (municipal solid waste, food waste, fats, and oils) is collected into an air tight container to be broken down by a variety of microorganisms to become a methane-rich gas that can be used as an alternative to natural gas.
The use of biogas as a form of energy dates back to the tenth century BC within Assyria where it was used to heat bath water. A better understanding of biogas began in the seventeenth century when Jan Baptista Van Helmont determined that flammable gases could derive from decaying matter.
A century later Count Alessandro Volta found there was a direct correlation between the volume of decaying matter and the amount of gas being produced. The first anaerobic digestion plant was built in Bombay, India in 1859. This process soon spread to Britain, where in 1895 biogas collected from treatment centers to light street lamps in Exeter.
“History of Biogas.” Kingdom BioEnergy. http://www.kingdombio.com/history1.html. Accessed July 14, 2016.
American Biogas Council. “What is Anaerobic Digestion?” American Biogas Council. https://www.americanbiogascouncil.org/biogas_what.asp. Accessed July 5, 2015.
Government of Canada. “Biomass to Biogas.” Ministry of Natural Resources. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/renewable-electricity/bioenergy-systems/biomass-gas/7401. Accessed July 12, 2016.
Government of Ontario. “Ontario's Bio Advantage Sector Profile.” Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Foods and Rural Affairs. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/research/ktt/spot-bioenergy.htm. Accessed July 12, 2016.
University of Pennylvania. “A Short History of Anarobic Digestion.” Penn State Extension. http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/energy/waste-to-energy/resources/biogas/links/history-of-anaerobic-digestion/a-short-history-of-anaerobic-digestion. Accessed July 14, 2016.