Assessing the potential of water hyacinth for biogas production

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Milton Edimu

Abstract

Nalubaale hydro power station, previously known as Owen Falls dam, is the most critical generating power plant in Uganda with installed capacity of 180MW. However, water hyacinth clogs the water intakes and disrupts power generation. Despite different initiatives to utilize this weed as a resource, an average of 54 tons of water hyacinth is still harvested on a daily basis and transported to a disposal site. The research presented here looks into the possibility of extracting biogas energy from it. The research involved the evaluation of the characteristics of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) as a suitable feedstock for biogas generation. Using a laboratory set up, biogas was generated from of the water hyacinth. Different setups were considered to ascertain the most suitable digestion conditions which yield the best gas volume and best gas quality. Gas analysis was performed to determine the gas quality and the amount of energy that can be generated from the biogas. This paper also assessed the viability of large scale production of biogas energy from water hyacinth and performed a cost-benefit analysis to ascertain the economic acceptability of the project. Water hyacinth exhibits characteristics of a good feedstock for biogas generation. It has an acidic pH of 5.85 which is near neutral (7.0). Water hyacinth also has 88.58% total volatile solids and total solids of 7.89%. The setup with optimum conditions contained 170g of water hyacinth, 55g of cow dung and 225ml of water and produced 3.2 liters of biogas with 60.1% methane. 

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