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Cambodian biodigester finds success, attracts investors

Made of tough polyethylene, the biodigester withstands flooding, soil shifting Made of tough polyethylene, the biodigester withstands flooding, soil shifting
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, September 13, 2017 -  An innovative household biodigester has proved itself to a point where a consortium of international investors has put down US$1 million for further expansion in Cambodia and for exploring new markets in other countries.

According to its developer, ATEC Biodigesters — a social enterprise co-owned by Engineers Without Borders, Australia, and Live and Learn Environmental Education, Cambodia — the biodigester uses an anaerobic chamber to break down organic manure from livestock to produce biogas (CH4 and CO2), which is piped to kitchens as cooking gas. Consequently, the resulting residual sludge is transformed into high-quality organic fertiliser.

While most biodigesters are vulnerable to groundwater pressure, soil expansion or flooding, the polyethylene ATEC biodigesters are designed for installation “in-ground, half in-ground or totally above ground, depending on the local conditions,” says Sophea Sum, ATEC technical services manager.
 
Developed for use in Cambodia and other countries prone to seasonal flooding, the ATEC biodigester bagged the Google Impact Challenge Award in 2014. Over the past three years, more than 250 units have been installed and ATEC estimates that during a 25-year life cycle, each biodigester will reduce 75 tonnes of greenhouse gases, save over US$6,000 in fuel and yield more than 492 tonnes of fertilisers.
 
‘Clean energy solutions that utilise natural system principles to unlock the inherent energy in our waste streams have the potential to transform the way we power homes across the world,’ says a press release last month (August) by Small Giants, Australia, one of the new investors.
 
Bernadette McCabe, bioresources scientist and Australian task leader for the International Energy Agency, says it is important to improve the environmental performance of these technologies without disproportionate increase in costs.

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