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In Europe and the United States, as well as in several developing countries, there is a move toward cultivating energy crops specifically for the production of biomass as a fuel. The potential for energy production from biomass throughout the world is enormous and as fossil-based fuels become scarcer and more expensive, as carbon emission levels are becoming of greater concern and as people realise the benefits of developing integrated energy supply options, then biomass could begin to realise its full potential as an energy source.
Biogas is produced by means of a process known as anaerobic digestion. It is a process whereby organic matter is broken down by microbiological activity and, as the name suggests, it is a process which takes place in the absence of air. It is a phenomenon that occurs naturally at the bottom of ponds and marshes and gives rise to marsh gas or methane, which is a combustible gas.
There are two common man-made technologies for obtaining biogas, the first (which is more widespread) is the fermentation of human and/or animal waste in specially designed digesters. The second is a more recently developed technology for capturing methane from municipal waste landfill sites. The scale of simple biogas plants can vary from a small household system to large commercial plants of several thousand cubic metres.