The Mt. Everest Biogas Project was initiated in April 2010 by Dan Mazur and Garry Porter. Both had personal knowledge of Mt. Everest and the environmental impact of the climber’s waste being dumped at Gorak Shep. Dan has guided Mt. Everest climbers for more than 20 years and spends 6 months a year in Nepal and Tibet. Garry is an engineer and a retired program manager from Boeing. Dan had knowledge of biogas digesters operating throughout Nepal and Garry had a background in making programs happen.
The question posed in 2010 by Dan was: could existing biogas digester systems be implemented in the harsh atmosphere of Gorak Shep? And so, the Mt. Everest Biogas Project was formed using an all-volunteer team from the Seattle area to answer the question: is there a sustainable solution to the human waste issue on Mt. Everest?
One of the final technical design hurdles is the design of the structure over the biogas digester to maintain an acceptable atmospheric environment and provide storage and work space for the operators of the system. The Seattle chapter of Architects without Borders (AWB) has volunteered their member’s time and talent to this design. Initial design concepts are attached.
Read more (2) — to be added
Dr. Michael Marsolek of Seattle University spent a month in Kathmandu meeting with Kathmandu University to set up a program to conduct lab/bench tests with samples of human waste from Everest base camp. Testing may take up to 2 years and will confirm the performance modeling done in 2011. More important the testing will deepen the collaboration between the Seattle team and the people of Nepal and will help develop a network of technical support for the project once implemented.
Read more (3) — to be added
The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (the UIAA) invited our project to submit a proposal for their annual environmental award, the UIAA Mountain Protection Award. Even if not selected, our program will be provided access to UIAA’s 80 national federations and their 2.5 million members.
It was the intent of the design team that the biogas system design be transparent such that it could be replicated in other locations. As the design evolved, all the assumptions and calculations were documented in the Basis of Design (BOD) document. This document was vetted by outside experts in the Seattle area and released.
In July the Mt. Everest Biogas Project was invited to present our project to the American Alpine Club at their 3 days Sustainable Summits Conference. Focus of the conference was “to shape and share environmentally sustainable solutions for mountain areas, while also developing global partnerships.
Click here for the presentation. (Requires Livestream user account)
Early in the design process, stated requirements for the biogas system needed to be formalized so that everyone on the team was designing to the same parameters.
Read more (6) — to be added
A site survey at Gorak Shep was conducted by the senior project engineer, Nate Janega, to meet with the Gorak Shep community leaders and present a preliminary design of the biogas system.
2013 Nate’s Journey
Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) is a NGO made up of the local people of the Khumbu and is responsible for the environmental protection of the Mt. Everest Park. Construction of the biogas system at Gorak Shep will require their approval and involvement. The project briefed them on the feasibility design and maintains communication with them for their support.
Long-term atmospheric weather data for Gorak Shep was acquired from international satellite sources (TMY2) and used as input for the heat loss analysis. Using computer modeling from the U.S. National Energy Laboratories software and hand calculations the amount of heat loss under 0°C external temperature and maintaining the internal temperature at 30°C, was calculated at 100 Watts. This amount of heat loss, under worst-case temperature scenarios, can be overcome with current solar panel technology.
Several digester models were investigated before utilizing an anaerobic well-stirred digester model developed by Paul Harris, University of Adelaide. Sample output from this model shows that operating an 8 m3 digester with human waste diluted 3/1 with water and maintaining the internal temperature at 20°C, the digester will produce 2.1 m3 of biogas/day.
The modeling also revealed that the critical factor determining biogas performance is maintaining the internal temperature of the digester at 20-30 deg C. This drove the requirement for extensive technical data on the weather of Gorak Shep, and extensive heat loss modeling of the biogas digester. The modeling concluded that heat loss was a major design consideration requiring both insulation for heat retention and solar panels to provide external sources of heat.
Formed in 2003, Biogas Sector Program (BSP) is a Non-Governmental Organization originally created by the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV). It is now administrated by local professionals in Nepal. BSP was founded to promote the use of bioreactors and biogas through education and local development. BSP has already used its combination of local and international experts to construct hundreds of thousands of bioreactors throughout Nepal.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with BSP-Nepal and the Mt. Everest Biogas Project in 2010 to work together on this important project for the people of Nepal.
We are proud to announce that the Mount Everest Biogas Project has been officially launched!
Our project builds on the success of many other biogas projects in Nepal, and adds the challenges and specific requirements for an installation at 17,000ft (5000meters) elevation and that utilizes only human waste.
We have been approved by the Engineers Without Borders – Puget Sound Professional Chapter. You can find volunteer opportunities and the project description on their website. (Nepal Biogas project page)
In the shadow of Mt. Everest lies a group of sacred valleys known as the Khumbu. For centuries this remote mountainous region has been the homeland of the Sherpa people. Discover the hidden treasures along the trail and off the beaten path.