Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Got Gas?

Readers might have hoped for a break in this series on methane.  Before I leave what is admittedly not the most exiting energy topics I want to share one more methane factoid.  Livestock waste contributes about 28% of global methane emissions in the world.   That is a considerable amount of methane.  A noted in the article “The New Oil Patch”, methane offers both energy density and energy efficiency.  Why not try to trap this methane and use it to supplement other energy sources?

Apparently, I am not the first with the idea.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency AgSTAR program was initiated in 1994 to reduce methane emissions from livestock waste management operations by promoting the use of biogas recovery systems. Such systems typically included an anaerobic digester with biogas capture and combustion to produce electricity, heat or hot water.  Biogas recovery systems are effective at confined livestock facilities that handle manure as liquids and slurries, typically swine and dairy farms.

The program has apparently been instrumental in doubling the number of operational digester systems in the U.S.  The total number of projects rose to 162 by the end of 2010.  This has led to an estimated methane emission reduction of approximately 124,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent and annual energy generation of about 453,000 MWh.

Alas, the distributed nature of methane gas sources at cattle feedlots, pig breeding operations and other agriculture sites, is not conducive to the a large scale business model.  Most methane operations are either privately owned by a feedlot, dairy or municipality in the case of municipal waste.  This promising fuel source is likely to remain the plaything for entrepreneurs with the patience for a somewhat messy operation and the ability to knit together feedstock sources and cogeneration partners.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.

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