Smell of Progress: Chicken farms hatch Armenia’s first biogas station

Smell of Progress: Chicken farms hatch Armenia’s first biogas station

Lusakert Biogas Plant

The foul smell of fowl has long distinguished the villages and surrounding areas of Nor Geghi and Lusakert villages, since 1966 when poultry farming became the leading industry here, about 26 kilometers north of Yerevan.

But since last November, the acrid smell of chicken dung has become the odor of energy, as the Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm inaugurated the Lusakert Biogas Plant (LBP).

“Here, we have such conditions which provide effective production of gas,” says Armen Gulkanyan, Technical Director of LBP, stating what anyone who has ever driven through the plateau in summer already knows. The stink of chicken droppings producing 3,000 tons of fryers and 150 million eggs per year is now the smell of progressive and ecologically-prudent production of methane gas.

“Here the analogical process of marshes is taking place,” the technical director explains. “Organic material is decomposed, and meanwhile gas, particularly methane (CH4), is produced.”

Later the sulphuric acid is removed from the produced gas, which then becomes usable. The cleaned biogas makes the cogenerator (a power-generation facility that produces electricity as well as a byproduct, such as heat or steam, that is used for heating and cooling) run, and as a result, energy is produced.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recognized biogas plants to be the most productive source of energy. Currently in developing countries such programmes are sponsored by UN Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), in case they manage to show that they reduce carbon emissions.

Lusakert Biogas Plant (LBP) is the first clean development mechanism in Armenia. It was registered in UN on September 2006, in the framework of Kyoto Protocol. The Clean Development Mechanism is a program designed for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, or for the promotion of investments in absorption projects in developed countries. The main objective of CDM is the regulation of greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere to the level so that it would be possible to prevent human detriment to the climate system.

Even though Armenia does not have any international obligations to reduce methane emissions, Aram Gabrielyan, Head of Environmental Protection Department at the RA Ministry of Nature Protection, considers this program a model.

“This is the first fulfilled program in the region as a CDM. It overcame many obstacles, and it may be considered to be rather successful,” Gabrielyan says.

Armen Valyan, Director of in Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm states that such stations are very expensive, and there was a threat at the beginning of the project, that it might work at a loss.

“In 2006 being registered as a CDM, many organizations were eager to invest in this program. For example, Bigadan Organization wanted to provide the ‘know-how’,” says Valyan, General Director of Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm.

The construction of the plant started on August 2007 and was finished a year later.

Fifty eight percent of the plant belongs to Max Concern (the owner of Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm), 16 percent – to the Norwegian ‘Vekst’ Organization, 13 percent – to Bigadan Company, and 13 percent – to Danish IFU Company. It is expected that the invested money will be transformed into profit in about 7-8 years. Construction of the plant cost 5.2 million Euro.

Currently the Lusakert Biogas Plant runs with 50-60 percent capacity.

“In case the plant runs with its entire capacity we will manage to produce five million kilowatt/hour electricity per year,” says Valyan.

The electricity produced at LBP is sold to the State at 40 drams (about 7.5 cents) per kilowatt.

The next step to be taken by LBP is the reprocessing of organic fertilizers, which will begin this year.

“When gases are removed from bird droppings, it becomes an organic fertilizer. If it is not done, the material is dangerous for usage, since in many cases it burns the soil,” explains Gulkanyan.

General director Valyan believes such organic fertilizer is necessary for Armenia.

“Basically chemical fertilizers are used in Armenia’s agriculture. Consequently the soil becomes bare and lacks humus (the organic part of the soil, a brown or black substance resulting from the partial decay of plant and animal matter). And organic fertilizer can recover humus,” Valyan says.

According to him, the plant is already selling the fertilizer in small volumes; however, ‘it is necessary to enlarge the production.’

While a novelty to Armenia, and yet experimental in other countries production of biogas is famous since ancient times. Archeology shows it was used for warming bath water in ancient Assyria. And as far back as 1895 street lights in the English town of Exeter were operated on biogas. In some cities of New Zealand and France public buses run on biogas.