10-16th Century biogas used for heating bathwater
17th century Jan Baptista Helmont first documentation of biogas
1859 First Digestion facility in Bombay India
1895 Biogas used to fuel street lamps Exeter England
Early 1900 to WWI higher interest in Biogas until fosile fuels became more available
1930 China and India produced larger AD plants for electricity production
1990 Germany initiated feed-in-tariffs that offered long term contract for AD
A short history of Anaerobic Digestion
Anecdotal evidence suggests the use of biogas for heating bath water in Assyria during the 10th century BC and in Persia during the 16th century.
Jan Baptista Van Helmont in the 17th century was first to document the discovery that decaying organic matter could produce flammable gas that we know of. Latter in 1776 Count Alessandro Volta found the correlation between the amount of decaying organic matter to the amount of flammable gas produced. In 1859 the first Digestion plant was built for a leper colony in Bombay, India. In Exeter England a carefully designed sewage treatment facility to capture the biogas and fuel street lamps throughout the town in 1895.
In early 1900 to world war I there was an increase of interest as electricity and vehicle fuels began to be in demand. But AD took a back seat as fossil fuel mining filled the needs. There was a small splattering of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) sites throughout the world and a small group of scientists that studied its effects and potential. Starting in the 1930’s China and India started producing larger AD plants for electricity production. During both World War II and the oil crises of 1970 more interest was initiated for AD, but quickly fell out of favor once each crisis faded.
In the 1990’s Germany initiated feed-in tariffs that offered long term contracts for AD the grew the countries’ number of AD plants from 20 to nearly 9,000 today making it one of the leading countries for AD. All over the world countries are incentivizing AD as one of the major clean energy technologies. Because of its ability to both reduce gasses that would have been left to continue the damage to our environment but also produce both clean energy along with a host of other potentials with the digestate that comes as a byproduct.
https://extension.psu.edu/a-short-history-of-anaerobic-digestionBuswell, A.M.; Hatfield, W.D. (1936). Bulletin 32, Anaerobic Fermentations. Urbana, IL: State of Illinois Department of Registration and Education.
https://scholarship.law.umassd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1027&context=umlrKlinkner, Blake Anthony (2014). “Anaerobic Digestion as a Renewable Energy Source and Waste Management Technology: What Must be Done for This Technology to Realize Success in the United States?”. UMass Law Review. 9: 79.
Auer; et al. (2017). “Agricultural anaerobic digestion power plants in Ireland and Germany: Policy and practice”. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 97 (3): 719–723