Nopalimex is a biodigester developed by Miguel Aké entirely powered by nopal, a cactus. The plant benefits from economies of scale and low transport cost, as the crop is grown around the biodigester plant. The biogas produced is used in the factory for making corn and cactus chips, as well as in a gen-set for electricity. Some is cleaned of carbon dioxide and provided as bio-methane, which can be used in modified vehicles.
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Market Suggested Retail Price
Target Users (Target Impact Group)
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Public Sector Agencies
Distributors / Implementing Organizations
Nopalimex is the sole distributor in Mexico. This firm generates gas and electricity using nopal biomass.
Direct competitors include G2E Biomass Gasification Plant.
Plants are designed and custom-built individually. Nopal plantation is liquefied by a special machine. The resulting pulp is mixed in large tanks with water at 38 degrees C which is the required temperature to break down nopal and release methane. Further treatment with sulphuric acid extracts carbon dioxide, giving the plant a 96% concentration of methane at a production rate of eight tons a day.
Intellectural Property Type
User Provision Model
Users can obtain the product directly from Nopalimex
Distributions to Date Status
Two plants to date in the town of Zitacuaro, in central Michoacan state, the first to aliment the company 'El Manjar del Campo' that produces tortillas, the second used to fuel the town's vehicle fleet.
Output energy product
Average daily biogas production (m3/day)
600 m3/day – 800 m3/day
Description of waste source(s)
Dried cactus (nopal) leaves
Waste input requirements (kg per hour or day)
7,257 kg of per day
Description of other input requirements
Other input requirements (amount per hour)
System dimensions (m)
The system includes a well-insulated above-ground container. The biogas digester processes prickly pears (from the cactus) into biomethane. The pears are ground up into a soup, mixed with manure and fermented in a digester. The biogas generated is then cooled to dewater it.
May be provided by the manufacturer
Manufacturer Specified Performance Parameters
To convert nopal leaves into a source of usable energy.
Vetted Performance Status
Research was conducted by scientists in Oxford University on the prickly pear cacti and they found that the plant can help produce more food in drought-stricken areas. Since the cacti absorbs high quantities of water, after digestion biogas is made, liquid and solid fertilizer will be left over. This in turn is used to better cultivate crops in areas that could not otherwise support them.
There are some dangers associated with biogas, including fire hazard, explosion, gas leaks, and negative pressure.
Complementary Technical Systems
Academic Research and References
Fernandez J. L. A., 2015, Producción de biogás con nopal, IIE.
Aké, M., 2017, Biogás con nopal para vehículos en sustitución de combustibles fósiles, México.
Advanced Biofuels USA. 2017. Methane Plant Is the First to Use Nopal. Mexico News Daily, March 22, 2017.
Instituto Mexicano de La Propiedad Industrial | Gobierno | Gob.mx. n.d. www.gob.mx.
World’s First Cactus Biogas Plant Opens in Mexico. 2016. Yucatan Times.
Mason, P.M., Glover, K., Smith, J.A.C., Willis, K.J., Woods, J., Thomson, I.P., 2015, The potential of CAM crops as a globally significantbioenergy resource: moving from ‘fuel or food’ to fuel and more food. Energy & Environmental Science. Vol 8. Issue 8. pp 2320-2329.
Compliance with regulations
The biodigestor was developed with expert advice from the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico, the Autonomous University of Chapingo and the Electric Power Research Institute. Expert advisors have indicated that the good economics depend on having a good quality feed material easily accessible - in this case nopal (prickly pear).