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OBERLIN, OH – Darren Doherty | Permaculture | Biodigester | Resource Management

October 23, 2009

Below is an audio recording of Darren Doherty speaking about Permaculture and the Jean Pain system. This recording was taken at a Permaculture Design Course in Oberlin, OH.

(Note: this is a long recording, and will take a minute to load: please be patient. Also, some recordings do not play well on built-in computer speakers; and would require headphones or a strong set of speakers attached to your computer.)

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See Darren Doherty’s Website

Students constructing a Compost Shower inspired by Jean Pain at the Oberlin PDC. Photo: The Erie Wire

Students constructing a Compost Shower inspired by Jean Pain at the Oberlin PDC. Photo: The Erie Wire

Darren Doherty finishing the Compost Shower. Photo: Scott Medwid

Darren Doherty finishing the Compost Shower. Photo: Scott Medwid

Jean Pain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jean Pain on location.

Jean Pain (1930 – 1981) was a French innovator who developed a compost based bioenergy system that produced 100% of his energy needs. He heated water to 60 degrees celsius at a rate of 4 litres a minute which he used for washing and heating. He also distilled enough methane to run an electricity generator, cooking elements, and power his truck. This method of creating usable energy from composting materials has come to be known as Jean Pain Composting, or the Jean Pain Method.Picture 110


He married Ida Pain (maiden name not yet known) and lived near Domaine des Templiers, on a 241-hectare timber tract backed on to the Alpes de Provence. He died in 1981 at the age of 51.


Pain’s compost power plant supplied 100 percent of Pain and his wife Ida’s rural household’s energy needs. A compost mound of tiny brushwood pieces (3 metres high and 6 across) was made of tree limbs and pulverized underbrush[1]. Pain spent considerable attention developing prototypes of machines required to macerate small tree trunks and limbs; one of these, a tractor-driven model, was awarded fourth prize in the 1978 Grenoble Agricultural Fair.[2] The 50 tonnes of compost was then mounded over a steel tank with a capacity of 4 cubic metres. This tank was 3/4 full of the same compost, which had first been steeped in water for 2 months. The hermetically sealed tank was connected by tubing to 24 truck tyre inner tubes, banked near by for the methane gas to collect. The gas was distilled by being washed through small stones in water and compressed. Pain used the gas for cooking and producing electricity. He also fueled a truck. Pain estimated that 10 kilos of brushwood would supply the gas equivalent of a litre of petrol.

It took about 90 days to produce 500 cubic metres of gas – enough to keep two ovens and three burner stoves going for a year. The methane-fueled combustion engine drove a generator that produced 100 watts of electricity every hour. This charged an accumulative battery which stored the current, providing all the light needed for the household.

Hot water was generated through 200 metres of pipe buried inside the compost mound. The pipe was wrapped around the methane generator with an inlet for cold water and an outlet for hot. The heat from the decomposing mass produced 4 litres per minute of hot water heated to 60 degrees Celsius – enough to satisfy the central heating, bathroom and kitchen requirements.

The compost heap continued fermenting for nearly 18 months, after which time the installation is dismantled and a new compost system is set up at once to assure a continuous supply of hot water.

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