November 19, 2017
AD, The New Old
It never ceases to amaze me how we take for granted every day things or processes that have come from a bygone age. A modern day flour mill that grinds wheat to make premium snow white flour is the next generation method from what we’d consider today as being a quaint old wind or water mill. Imperfect mill stones, reliant on energy created from the elements. The history of grinding wheat to make flour goes back even further than a few hundred years of when windmills were perched on hill tops or water mills nestled next to flowing rivers and streams.
Way back in history, the ancient Egyptians were milling wheat in the most primitive way by hand. Then they made their bread from water, flour and leaven – sour dough from the previous days bread making or leaven from the last brewing of ale…yes, even ale making is really old.
The Ancient Egyptians didn’t know much about Anaerobic digestion, but the construction of city sewers in the late 19th and early 20th century brought with them the problem of excess bio gas from naturally occurring anaerobic digestion from sewage and the bacteria inherent in the underground sewage flows. Methane pockets could build up creating the potential for devastating and life threatening explosions. To tackle this, the Sewer Gas Destructor Lamp was designed and patented by Joseph Edward Webb of Birmingham. The lamp would channel and flare off the excess gas above ground while providing light in the cities above the sewer network. These lamps are redundant today, apart from one lamp next to the Savoy Hotel in London. This lamp continues to burn night and day. The lamp is not the original lamp but has been replaced with a new lamp which is styled similarly to it’s predecessor.
So there you have it, an earlier historic comparison to today’s modern use of biogas. Of course the gas volumes were completely random back then unlike the gas created by the well ran anaerobic digesters of today. The analyses and forecasting of feedstocks expected into the A.D. sites are well known. Each type of solid or liquid waste is tested so that each waste stream’s gas potential can be identified. With some mathematics the average amount of gas to be yielded from the overall collective waste streams can be calculated so the gas to grid or electricity output can be forecast and key performance indicators can be met. Clever stuff!. I wonder what Joseph Edward Webb would have made of this?